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Nutrition Education for Native Communities
In partnership with NAFDPIR (National Association of Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations), First Nations launched the Nutrition Education for Native American Communities project to increase access to culturally-based nutrition education programs. More specifically, this project provided financial support to Native communities, giving preference to FDPIR program sites, to support nutrition education models in those communities. Through this partnership, project participants developed nutrition education resources and videos that have been compiled into a toolkit.
What is the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)?
One federal feeding program that aims to address issues of hunger and food insecurity in Native communities is the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). FDPIR is a federal feeding program under whereby local FDPIR programs in or near Native communities provide USDA foods monthly to income-eligible households living on American Indian reservations, approved areas near reservations, and in Oklahoma.
Currently, there are approximately 276 tribes receiving benefits under the FDPIR. Food for distribution is purchased by the USDA and shipped to local programs. Local authorized distributors then store and distribute the food, determine applicant eligibility, and provide some limited nutrition education to recipients.
FDPIR is one of the few federal feeding programs that reaches the most vulnerable populations in Native communities. In many cases, FDPIR serves households in isolated areas and those without access to vehicles to travel to grocery stores. In many ways, the FDPIR program has become a cultural institution in Native communities, defining an entire generation of consumers in Indian Country from coast to coast. Cultural markers are evident (for better or worse) in popular references to “commods,” “commodity cheese” and “commod bods,” demonstrating that this feeding program has penetrated the social life of Native communities.
Currently, FDPIR is operated by a group of dedicated program managers at the community level. A large majority of these managers are over the age of 50 and have served in their capacities as managers for over 10 years. These dedicated managers are largely responsible for education and advocacy efforts to include healthier and traditional food options into the food packages offered under FDPIR and promote dignity, education and community through this very important feeding program.
Why is this project needed?
Prior to colonization, Native peoples had self-sufficient and sustainable food systems. Over time, removal from traditional homelands, limited access to traditional food sources, and transitions to cash economies, among other things, weakened tribal food systems. Today, many Native communities and households are food insecure, dependent on outside food sources, and maintain a diet of Western foodstuffs that are often linked to negative and deteriorating health, community and economic effects.
Current data suggest that Native households experience food insecurity at greater rates than most Americans. Data indicate that 23 percent of Native households (nearly one in four) are food insecure compared to 15 percent of all U.S. households. Similarly, data note that 60 percent of all counties that are majority-Native American are labeled highly food insecure by the USDA. However, some reservation communities experience even greater rates of food insecurity. For example, Shannon County, South Dakota, entirely encompassed by the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, has a child poverty rate over 60 percent and in households with kindergarten-age children has been reported to be as high as 40 percent. Similarly, research on the Navajo reservation has noted that 75 percent of individuals are food insecure.
Many Native communities face high rates of food insecurity in addition to high rates of obesity, and suffer from other diet-related ailments and diseases. This is largely due to the fact that healthy traditional foods are no longer readily accessible, “junk foods” are more readily available than other foods, and nutrition-related education opportunities remain scarce. Recognizing that the loss of self-sufficient food systems is a contributing factor to the myriad issues Native communities face today, First Nations works with and supports Native communities in reclaiming local food systems. Local food-system control is foundational to reversing years of colonization aimed at the disintegration of cultural and traditional belief systems and the dismantling of Native social and economic systems. If Native communities have control of local food systems, food becomes a driver for cultural revitalization, improving community health and economic development.
FDPIR Nutrition Education Toolkit
The FDPIR Nutrition Education Toolkit has been designed to remove the barriers and limitations that many Native communities face in accessing nutritious food, preparing healthy meals, and cooking food that tastes good. This toolkit is a cache of free educational resources and an ever-evolving guide, meaning the education, nutrition and other resources will be updated and revised on an ongoing basis. Moreover, the materials set a solid foundation for nutrition and food education that can be modified and tailored to address individual community needs, as well as the teaching or coaching style of the food, health and nutrition educators.
- VIDEO 1: Change (Overview): Provides a brief summary describing the historical Native food rations or commodity program and its evolution into today’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).
- VIDEO 2: Tradition (Blue Corn Mush): Describes how newly introduced food items included in the FDPIR package are being used to keep traditional cooking alive.
- VIDEO 3: Fire (Outdoor Cooking): Describes traditional methods of cooking with the FDPIR package.
- OTHER: Native Recipe Videos: A total of 24 other “how to” traditional Native cooking videos were submitted by First Nations grantees and tribal community members from across Indian Country. To see delicious recipes from the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and Choctaw Fresh Produce, click here for a list of video links
- REGIONAL: Cooking Healthier with FDPIR Foods: First Nations has published a cookbook containing recipes that use all of the foods and ingredients included in the FDPIR package. The recipes provide a healthier alternative for those who want and need to eat wholesome, nutritious and delectable meals. Click here to view or download the cookbook.
- COMMUNITY: Cookbook Collection: First Nations is grateful for the generous permission given to share cookbooks containing contemporary and traditional Native community and family recipes that are nutritious and delicious, especially for those wanting and needing to focus on healthier cooking options.
- Oneida Nation of Wisconsin: Oneida Traditional & Healthy Foods for Our Community Cookbook
- STAR School: NIZHÓNÍGO ÍÍNÁ – Cooking with Navajo Traditional Foods
- Water is Life (JPG)
- Food is Our Medicine (JPG)
- Taste the Season (JPG)
- Protect What You Love (JPG)
- Build Strength (JPG)
- Be Resilient (JPG)
- Printable Versions of Above Posters (PDF – All posters contained in one file.)
- Poster Back Credit (PDF – If posters are printed, please include this attribution on back of each poster.)