Healthy Native Foods

We can work together to make our families and communities healthier.

New research shows that obesity is the second largest preventable cause of cancer in the United States. Yet only 31% of Americans recognize obesity as a risk factor for cancer. This is important, because 81% of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) are obese. The blame of being overweight often gets put on the individual, but in tribal and urban Indian communities there are often large issues contributing to poor health that are out of an individual person’s control.

Over the last 20 years, cancer rates among Non-Hispanic Whites has decreased while continuing to increase in AI/AN communities. Prior toWestern 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 working to eliminate the cancer burden through Healthy Native Foods work. This initiative uses a food as prevention approach and focuses on promoting the importance of traditional foods, healthy eating and cultural practices 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 GIS map. The aim 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 demonstrations at our annual Powwow for Hope for community to share in trying new foods.

In order to model positive cancer prevention for American Indian and Alaska Native 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.

For more information on our Healthy Native Foods project, contact Takayla Lightfield at


Please find our available resources to use in your communities to change policy and systems around increasing healthy Native foods and decreasing sugar sweetened beverages in your communities as well as your homes.

Recipe Share

Browse our favorite healthy Native recipes and submit your own here!

Eat Well Together

This infographic was designed to help American Indian cancer survivors and their families eat healthier foods.

Mother's Milk Infographic

Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of cancer and cancer risk factors. This resource provides information Read More...

on how breast milk truly is medicine and how you can support breastfeeding women.

For more information on our breastfeeding resource or to request copies of this resource contact Takayla Lightfield 

Healthy Eating for Strong Native Communities

Policy, systems and environmental change initiatives need to be broad and comprehensive in order Read More...

to effectively alter norms around healthy eating in American Indian communities. This resource provides tribal communities with ideas and solutions to improve tribal food systems and promote Indigenous health.

Food as Healing & Prevention Webinar

Indigenous people have long known that food is medicine and have respected and used it as such. Read More...

However, removal, relocation and other factors have contributed to disrupted food ways and declining health for many American Indians and Alaska Natives. There are many resilient food champions working hard to revitalize the connection with food for the overall health of our current and future generations. In this webinar we're honored to have two of these food champions share their knowledge by way of telling their story. Diane Wilson (Dream of Wild Health) and David Manuel (Red Lake Food Initiative) share their successes and challenges for others to learn from. 

Healthy, Indigenous Foods Policy Work in the Lower Sioux Indian Community Webinar

This webinar presented by Stacy Hammer, RD and Julie Ralston Aoki, JD, focuses on the Lower Sioux Indian Community’s Honoring Little Crow Healthy Indigenous Food Initiative. Read More...

Presenters describe how the Lower Sioux Indian Community’s Health and Human Services Advisory Committee is partnering with the American Indian Cancer Foundation and the Public Health Law Center to develop, draft and implement a strategic plan for developing a set of Tribal policies to support healthy, Indigenous foods across the Community. Presenters also share about how community support for the policy change is being developed, and how this policy effort is changing the conversation about health and food across the Community.

The Lower Sioux Indian Community's Honoring Little Crow with Healthy and Indigenous Foods Initiative Resolution

Passed September 20th, 2016 by Tribal Council, this resolution was supported by AICAF and  developed in partnership with the Lower Sioux Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and the Public Health Law Center. Read More...

The Resolution calls for (1) healthy and Indigenous vending at community locations (2) healthy and indigenous vendors at the community powwow and (3) the development of a strategic plan for various food outlets.

For more information, contact Melanie Plucinski at

AICAF Health Policy for Healthy Eating, Physical Activity, Tobacco and Alcohol

Approved by the AICAF Board of Directors on May 17, 2013 with updates approved January 20, 2016. For more information, contact Takayla Lightfield at

HNF Media Package

As a part of the Healthy Native Foods initiative AICAF has provided traditional foods and healthy eating educational content for 6 articles along with accompanying Facebook and Twitter posts. Read More...

They have been distributed to all 11 Minnesota tribes and urban areas free of charge and they are available here for download. The articles and social media posts can be used however each community sees fit, i.e. print or online newspaper/letter, educational hand out, brochures, mailings, waiting area messaging, etc. Each community is encouraged to personalize the articles with pictures and local program details.

HNF 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. Read More...

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.

HNF Survey Results

AICAF administered a survey in May of 2016 to gather information form Minnesota food advocates. The Healthy Native Foods Report 2016 provides a summary of the survey results. Read More...

The results and recommendations provided in the report can be used to guide future work of food advocates and funders.

For more information on the Healthy Native Foods Initiative contact

HNF Articles

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 Read More...

local partners and their programs in a Healthy Native Food series in The Circle Newspaper (Minneapolis), on Facebook and Twitter.

Learning Tours

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. Read More...

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.