National Nutrition Month: Improving Nutrition on Reservations

National Nutrition Month in March was created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. Unfortunately, healthy foods are not always easily accessible to individuals living in reservation communities.

Low food security is a daily issue for the reservations PWNA serves, and nutrition-related disease rates such as diabetes are high. And while food banks operate within some of these reservations, many lack an adequate supply of food to meet the rising demand. Over the years, PWNA has helped to not only meet immediate nutritional needs for thousands of Native Americans but also establish services that offer long-term solutions to food insecurity.

PWNA joined Newman’s Own Foundation’s Native American Nutrition Cohort in 2018 to collaborate with other Native nonprofits on food security and solutions. PWNA is also a part of the Arizona Department of Agriculture (ADA) Food & Agriculture Policy Advisory Committee to explore opportunities for increased food security and food access for the state’s Native American communities.

Through Native partnerships and supporters such as Newman’s Own Foundation and Walmart Foundation, PWNA has continued to enhance Native nutrition and food security on the reservations, implementing projects such as Mobile Nutrition Education and Train-The-Trainer (T3) to educate communities on local gardening and foraging, food preservation, and healthy cooking using local food sources and indigenous recipes.

Most recently, we partnered with the Lakota Food Sovereignty Coalition and Thunder Valley CDC co-hosting the 1st Annual Lakota Food Summit in Rapid City, South Dakota on Feb. 18-20. Presentations focused on food sovereignty, traditional foods and nutrition, gardening and harvesting, food processing, culture and community education. PWNA included many of our T3 nutrition trainees and other partners from the region to support the event. Sioux Chef Sean Sherman led a food tasting social with ancestral foods made by Native chefs from surrounding tribal lands. Cooking interns from the Cheyenne River Youth Project prepared one of Sherman’s recipes for the tasting – Sunflower+Squash Seed thumbprint cookies with no dairy, cane or artificial sugars.

This year’s National Nutrition Month campaign is focused on encouraging people to “eat right, bite by bite” and implement minor changes in their diet that are a step in the right direction. The campaign’s 2020 toolkit offers free resources for everyone, including tip sheets, handouts, games and activities. We encourage you to download the toolkit and help educate your community on the importance of properly nourishing our bodies.

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