Poverty Awareness Month

January brings renewed hope and an opportunity to positively impact those most in need. During Poverty Awareness Month, we are reminded of the current state of poverty in America – particularly for Native Americans.

It is estimated that 38.1 million people lived in poverty in 2018, and 17.3 million of those people lived in what is classified as ‘deep poverty,’ with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty threshold in America. Considering jobs are scarce in Native communities — largely due to reservation land being held in trust by the U.S. government and layers of federal, state and tribal regulations in play for business investment — it’s not surprising that more than 25 percent of Native Americans in the U.S. are living in poverty, representing the highest poverty-stricken group in the country. And the highest rates of poverty are in South Dakota and Arizona among many of the tribal communities PWNA serves.

These numbers should serve as an alarm to raise concerns about these impoverished communities, who often go without access to fresh produce and safe drinking water. In fact, 58 of every 1,000 Native American households lack plumbing, compared with 3 out of every 1,000 white households. Many Native American reservation communities are also USDA-designated food deserts.

PWNA collaborates with reservation partners to deliver food and water to remote communities, including foods for senior centers that prepare hot meals for elders, and food boxes for pantries that serve an increasing population of families in tribal communities. Many Elders live in food deserts where the nearest grocery store can be up to an hour away, so PWNA provides staple foods and fresh produce for nutritious eating, as well as emergency food boxes to address shortages in some communities.

PWNA is also addressing poverty in Indian Country through participation in programs such as the Native American Nutrition Cohort sponsored by Newman’s Own Foundation and capacity building, including Mobile Nutrition Education and Train-The-Trainer (T3) projects, that educate communities on local gardening and foraging, food preservation, and healthy cooking with local food sources and indigenous recipes.   

This January, consider those who may be less fortunate and remember there’s always more we can do to support those who need it most.

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