Healthy Native Foods
American Indian Health Statistics:
81% of American Indians are obese
15% of American Indians suffer from Type II diabetes (more than double the rate of Non-Hispanic Whites)
American Indians are twice as likely as the rest of the US population to experience nutrition related-health problems
Almost ALL reservations are considered food deserts
Food desert is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as a low income census tract with a substantial number of residents being 10 or more miles from the nearest grocery story in rural areas and 1 or more miles from the nearest grocery store in urban areas.
Research has shown that 95% of cancer types are determined by our lifestyle choices – the environment we live in, the food that we eat and the amount of physical activity that we engage in. That means that the majority of cancer types are preventable with only 5% found to be hereditary. Prior to Western colonization and reservation systems, American Indian communities were a healthy and thriving population with an active lifestyle and naturally healthy diet that prevented disease. Indigenous food systems reflected the Native way of life encompassing language, spirituality, medicines, respect for life and the interconnectedness of all living things. Restoring the traditional relationship with food is fundamental for eliminating cancer in American Indian communities.
The American Indian Cancer Foundation has been tackling the cancer burden with the Healthy Native Foods Initiative. This initiative uses a food as prevention approach and focuses on promoting the importance of traditional foods and healthy eating for cancer prevention and overall health. As a part of the Healthy Native Foods Initiative AICAF has identified food advocates in Minnesota and created an interactive google map. The goal of the map is to make it easy for food advocates to find each other, connect, partner and share knowledge to create a coordinated effort in moving food work in Indian country forward (or rather back to what it used to be). Additionally, we have provided culturally appropriate chef demonstration at our annual Powwow for Hope, educational materials and tools to create positive changes.
In order to model positive cancer prevention for American Indian communities and organizations AICAF has developed a Wellness Policy that all staff must take a training on, sign and agree to follow. The Wellness Policy addresses tobacco, healthy foods, physical activity and alcohol. This Wellness Policy is available here and is free to be utilized by others.
The American Indian Cancer Foundation organized interactive bus tours where community members visited Native-owned food systems and participated in discussions on the healthy food needs in American Indian communities. A Healthy Native Foods Steering Committee comprised of American Indian stakeholders across Minnesota helped develop community-specific goals and recommendations based on their unique community perspective and experiences as well as barriers examined during these Healthy Native Foods tours.
Native American Gardens
Reconnecting with Food Relatives
Healthy Native Foods Toolkit
The American Indian Cancer Foundation supported the development of a Healthy Native Foods toolkit designed for organizations who work with the American Indian community. This toolkit was developed by Stacy Hammer, Lower Sioux Tribal Member and Registered Dietitian. It offers strategies for healthier eating practices at the workplace and for organizations that host community events and meetings. It also expands to include cost effective strategies for families and specific ways to engage kids in healthier eating.
Healthy Native Foods Articles (February, March, April, May 2014)
In efforts to raise community awareness of the Healthy Native Foods Project, its partners and the benefits of healthy eating within the American Indian community, the American Indian Cancer Foundation featured local partners and their programs in a Healthy Native Food series in The Circle Newspaper (Minneapolis), on Facebook and Twitter.