Growing More Than Gardens on the Reservation
In a world where food deserts, low food security and nutrition-related diseases are common, what could be better than community gardening programs? PWNA reservation partners throughout the Northern Plains and the Southwest are championing and teaching gardening as a sustainable food solution in their remote tribal communities.
To assist these gardening and food sovereignty initiatives, PWNA received a $25,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation, the independent foundation created by the late actor and philanthropist, Paul Newman.
Newman’s Own Foundation (the Foundation) is funding nutrition education for children and families and fresh food access for underserved communities. Since 2014, the Foundation has committed $10 million to U.S. nonprofits that support nutrition programs, and most of the grantees are taking a grassroots approach in helping to solve nutrition problems, one community at a time.
PWNA is using the Foundation grant to help reservation partners stimulate locally grown produce and gardening initiatives, each partner taking an approach that fits for their communities. Here are some of the projects underway:
- Orchard Restoration, Whiteriver, AZ (Fort Apache Reservation)
This project is addressing the overwhelming rate of diabetes on the Fort Apache Reservation by making fresh foods more accessible. Their goals are restoring an old orchard, planting fruit trees, increasing local involvement through a community planting day, then conducting food preservation classes once fruits are available. They are also developing a five-year plan for fresh food access. So far, 40 fruit trees have already been planted in the orchard.
- Sustainable Food System, St. Francis, SD (Rosebud Reservation)
This intergenerational project on the grounds of the St. Francis Indian School is creating a sustainable food system with bee hives, a chicken coop and 14,000 sf farm-to-school garden. The group is hoping to harvest 150 pounds of honey and is targeting 50 hives to eventually produce $80,000 in annual income, of which a portion will assist in purchasing propane for Elders on the reservation in the winter. The chicken coop includes a rooster and 24 chickens with enough eggs being sold by the dozen to pay for their feed. Teachers are also incorporating the project into classroom discussions with STEM students. Garden tilling will begin as soon as weather permits.
- Greenhouse & Gardening Education, Leupp, AZ (Navajo Reservation)
Gardening is traditional in the Navajo community of Leupp, AZ, so students are naturally curious. In response, Leupp high school teachers are developing a gardening-themed lesson one day a week to teach gardening and engage every K-8 student in planting and growing their own garden in raised garden beds. To integrate a future garden-to-cafeteria component, the group is exploring the requirements for serving greenhouse produce in the cafeteria.
“We are excited to support projects that aim to increase access to healthy foods for under-served populations,” said Kelly Giordano, Managing Director of Newman’s Own Foundation. “In particular, Partnership with Native Americans is doing important work to make an impact in improving nutrition for Native American communities.”