Healthy Native Foods

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 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.

Over the last 20 years, cancer rates among non-Hispanic whites have decreased, while continuing to increase for people in Indian Country. Prior to western colonization and reservation systems, American Indian and Alaska Native 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. This initiative focuses on food for prevention, highlighting the importance of traditional foods, healthy diets and cultural practices for overall health and wellness. 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 forward with this work in Indian country (or back to what it used to be). Additionally, we have provided culturally-appropriate chef demonstrations at our annual Powwow for Hope for community members to taste new foods.

In order to model positive cancer prevention for American Indian and Alaska Native communities and organizations, AICAF has developed a Wellness Policy in which all staff must be trained and adhere to following. 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


Please find our available resources below and share with your network. These materials aim to change policies and practices surrounding healthy foods and beverages in our homes, at community events, and across Indian Country. 

Reclaiming Indigenous Food Relationships

The Reclaiming Indigenous Food Relationships: Improving Health with Culture resource Read More...

recognizes and honors cultural food ways as being central to life and serves as a valuable tool for integrating culture into efforts to restore health for American Indian people. This resource was created in collaboration with partners engaged in food sovereignty work, academic experts and the American Indian Cancer Foundation. A webinar with detailed information on navigating the use of the framework is available here. If you would like copies of the resource, please contact or (612)-314-4848. 

Ordering Nutritious & Indigenous Foods: Guidelines and Checklist

The Ordering Nutritious & Indigenous Foods: Guidelines and Checklist resource Read More...

was developed in an effort to normalize healthy and Indigenous foods in American Indian/Alaska Native communities. This resource was created in collaboration with our partners at the Lower Sioux Indian Community and the Public Health Law Center and can be used to ensure the foods and beverages at your community gatherings, events and meetings are healthy and/or Indigenous. If you would like copies of the resource, please contact or (612)-314-4848. 

Eat Well Together

It's important for cancer survivors to eat healthy because nutrition affects every aspect of cancer, from prevention, to treatment and remission. Survivors should maintain a healthy Read More...

diet before, during and after cancer treatment to help your body heal.

For more information or to request copies of this resource, contact

Mother's Milk Infographic

Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of cancer and cancer risk factors. This resource provides information on how breast milk truly is medicine and how you can support breastfeeding women. Read More...

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

Food as Healing & Prevention Webinar

Indigenous people have long known that food is medicine and have respected and used it as such. However, removal, relocation and other factors Read More...

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 Read More...

Indigenous Food Initiative. 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 Read More...

Lower Sioux Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and the Public Health Law Center. 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 

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.

Recipe Share

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

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. They have Read More...

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 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

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

HNF Articles

"As the food security movement continues to gain momentum throughout the nation, Read More...

 it has grown more popular in Indian Country as a wellness strategy to prevent chronic illness." Read about how AICAF is using traditional teachings from the Reclaiming Indigenous Food Relationships: Improving Health with Culture framework to help prevent cancer in "Healing through the ways we know." This work was funded in part through the Minnesota Department of Health Tribal Statewide Health Improvement Partnership and the University of Minnesota. Its development was supported alongside academic partners and policy workers. The article is published on the Newman's Own Foundation website. Read it here

HNF Articles

In efforts to raise community awareness of the Healthy Native Foods Project, its partners Read More...

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.

HNF Toolkit

The American Indian Cancer Foundation supported the development of a Healthy Native Foods toolkit Read More...

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.

Learning Tours

The American Indian Cancer Foundation organized interactive bus tours where community members visited Read More...

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.