Running Strong for American Indian Youth® is pleased to announce that it was recently awarded a grant in the amount of $100,000 from Newman’s Own Foundation, the independent foundation created by the late actor and philanthropist, Paul Newman. This two-year grant will support the operation of the Medicine Root Gardening Program on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Children in the community served by Running Strong field office Oyate Teca Project, which oversees the gardening program, struggle with both obesity and malnutrition. The Pine Ridge Reservation is designated a “food desert” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Reservation’s only full grocery store has limited fresh produce that is often too expensive for many of residents.
More than 97 percent of residents live at less than the federal poverty level with the unemployment rate at nearly 90 percent and most annual incomes less than $5,000. Life expectancy is far below the national average at 44 years for men and 54 years for women. The community is burdened by diabetes at 800 percent over the national average.
The Medicine Root Gardening Program teaches youth and families not only how to eat healthy, but how to grow their own healthy vegetables and fruits through hands-on gardening classes at the Oyate Teca community gardens and how to create gardens at their own homes. Success is achieved by learning a variety of gardening skills including how to plant, establish and tend to a garden throughout the growing season, harvesting, learning how to preserve the produce for the fall and winter as well as selling produce at a farmer’s market.
The grant from Newman’s Own Foundation will provide critical funding so the gardening program can increase the availability of fresh, healthy, locally-produced vegetables and fruits grown on Pine Ridge and support the position of a full-time master gardener who will lead a total of 30 classes – 15 indoor and 15 outdoor.
The program will have a curriculum handbook finalized by March for the indoor gardening and 3 monthly workshops for the public between March and May. From June to August the outdoor gardening classes will be held along with lessons in cooking, canning and preservation. In addition, classes in financial literacy will also be conducted to prepare students to participate in the farmer’s market.
“We are extremely grateful to Newman’s Own Foundation for recognizing the great need for greater access to healthy produce on the Pine Ridge reservation and their support of the Medicine Root Gardening Program to make that goal a reality,” stated Running Strong Executive Director Lauren Haas Finkelstein.