Healthy Native Foods
The foods we eat impact every aspect of our health. AICAF’s Healthy Native Foods initiatives focus on food for cancer prevention, highlighting the importance of traditional ways of eating to improve health in our communities.
Reclaiming health in our communities with traditional foods
Research shows that obesity is the second largest preventable cause of cancer in the United States. Still, only 31% of Americans recognize it as a risk factor for disease. Even more dismaying is that 81% of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people are obese; meaning most of our people are unaware that cancer is a greater threat for them. In our society the blame is often put on the individual for being overweight, but in Native communities there are larger issues that contribute to poor health, and many factors that are out of a person’s control.
Prior to western colonization and reservation systems, AI/AN communities were thriving populations with naturally healthy diets and active lifestyles that helped keep tribes strong and prevent disease. The indigenous food system reflected the Native way of life; it encompassed language, spirituality, medicines, respect for life and the interconnectedness of all living things. Restoring our relationship with traditional foods that are minimally processed, nutrient-dense, and culturally-celebrated is fundamental for eliminating cancer across our communities.
One of the ways our team has been working to eliminate cancer is through Healthy Native Foods work. These initiatives focus on food for prevention, highlighting the importance of traditional foods, healthy diets and cultural practices for overall health and wellness. As a part of this program, AICAF has identified food advocates in Minnesota and created a map. The map helps food advocates find each other, connect, partner and share knowledge to create a coordinated effort in moving forward with this work in Indian country.
In order to model positive cancer prevention for our communities and Native organizations, AICAF has developed a Wellness Policy in which all staff must be trained in and adhere to. It addresses tobacco, healthy foods, physical activity and alcohol.