Adapting Food and Nutrition Education During the Global Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the lives of everyone in our country, including Native Americans living in remote, under-resourced and often impoverished reservation communities. Families and businesses have adapted to social distancing, working and schooling remotely, and communicating with co-workers, friends and family primarily through a digital screen.

COVID-19 may have changed the way we work and socialize, but it did not change the need to address the year-round food insecurity that exists for many Native American communities. With travel restrictions in place both on and off the reservations, many of our previously scheduled group trainings and food demonstrations with our tribal partners and T3 (Train the Trainer) participants were postponed or canceled.

However, we consulted with several Native American chefs, nutritionists and practitioners on the best ways to reformat the T3 training sessions so that tribal members could continue to learn traditional methods of meal preparation and food preservation, even in the midst of a global pandemic. The solution was to develop an online video series that allows tribal members to stay connected while at home, learn new cooking skills and attempt recipes as demonstrated in the videos.

Facilitators are recording videos from their homes that we are publishing on YouTube. The first four videos focusing on “food as medicine” include lessons on no-waste cooking, cooking with wild onions, making Elderberry drops and practicing self-care while sheltering at home. More videos will be released this summer.

In addition to the online training, PWNA is sending boxes of produce with recipes and nutritional information so that participants can practice their cooking and food preservation skills training. We’re also encouraging tribal members to submit their own videos, whether it’s cooking with methods learned from the online training courses or sharing their own healthy recipes with traditional ingredients. Several T3 participants have already submitted content, including videos on best use of spices, chili sauce recipes, salsa recipes and a cornbread recipe using blue corn meal.

PWNA is also furthering its T3 service by investing in more capacity building projects to support gardening, small farming and food sovereignty initiatives. We’re providing funds for seeds and remote technical assistance for reservation community-based projects that include online training in gardening, farming and project management.

We are thankful for our dedicated partners throughout Indian Country and the support of Newman’s Own Foundation and LDS Charities as their contributions allow us to continue providing critical food and nutrition education services, even amid the pandemic.

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