Food Sovereignty is a pressing issue for Native communities across the country. Many reservations are considered a “food dessert” due to the lack of access to grocery stores, and the high cost to import foods from retailers. The lack of access to healthy and affordable foods has resulted in lower life expectancies and higher rates of chronic illness in Native populations. One way to combat these statistics is through Food Sovereignty, which is the right of peoples and communities to have access to healthy and culturally appropriate food, and autonomy over the quality, distribution and production of said foods. Food sovereignty empowers Native households and communities to address food insecurity and chronic health issues, by controlling and cultivating their own food. This year, two 2023 Dreamstarters have projects that directly focus on Food Sovereignty issues within their communities.
Noah Proctor of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe, of Clinton Maryland has a dream to establish a community garden that will make a direct impact on food security within his tribe. Approximately 28 percent of Piscataway Conoy members are living at or below the poverty line. The food that will be produced from this garden will provide Tribal members with essential healthy foods they need.
With help from his mentor organization “Through Piscataway Eyes”, Noah has been able to secure land and begin developing his garden that spans about 100 feet by 150 feet. With help from local community members, they began planting their seedlings on Mother’s Day 2023. So far, they have planted more than two hundred tomato plants, and several hundred pepper plants with more than ten varieties of each. They have also planted a Three Sisters Garden, and Paw Paw trees. The plants are growing rapidly, and some have grown as much as 5 inches! Noah’s garden is a wonderful opportunity for community members to gather, learn and share traditional knowledge. Tribal members also have the opportunity to pick up a plant, to start their own gardens at home. Next, Noah hopes to purchase and construct a greenhouse on the property so he can continue his garden, and feeding his community year-round.
Sara Powell of the Navajo Nation began her program with the Nebo School District in Spanish Fork, Utah this past week. Sara’s dream is to reconnect fellow Native American students with their traditions and encourage self-sufficiency through a summer gardening program. During the pandemic, many of Sara’s classmates struggled to stay connected, and secure healthy food options due to school and work closures. Through her partnership with the Nebo Title VI Indian Education Program, Sara is hosting gardening classes and events throughout the summer that will allow Native youth to gather and learn how to cultivate their own gardens. On the first day of her program more than 25 kids, from grades kindergarten through high school, gathered in Sara’s backyard to learn about planting. Everyone participated in planting corn, squash, and beans and learned about the 3 Sisters Garden. In a few weeks the group will return to learn about proper watering techniques, and how to build a drip system to keep their plants thriving. Sara is also leading short lessons on gardening and healthy habits to younger kids at their day camps throughout the summer, and hosting booths at upcoming community events and showcases. At each event she will provide a seed planting activity, that will allow students to take home seeds and seedlings for their own gardens.