Food sovereignty solves long-existing food insecurity issues on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
Today, many places throughout Indian Country, particularly on reservations such as the Pine Ridge Indian and Cheyenne River Sioux Indian reservations, are known as “food deserts” where access to fresh vegetables, fruit and other nutritious foods is extremely limited — and expensive and poor quality when available.
But at Running Strong for American Indian Youth® we are working to help alleviate that troubling situation by not only helping provide fresh food to Native families but also helping them to generate income by selling surplus produce they grow in their own gardens at a local farmers market on Pine Ridge — a win-win for everyone — and a vital step towards transforming that “food desert” into a “food oasis.”
Running Strong has also partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Farmers to Families” COVID-19 relief program in 2020 which provided 8,770 nutrient-dense frozen food boxes valued at more than $110 each to four of our partners across the country, as well as to our 2019 Dreamstarter Jacob Crane who distributed food boxes on the Navajo Nation.
“I want to extend a special thank you to Running Strong for American Indian Youth® for providing so much for families and elders in need,” Jacob told us at the time. “You don’t know just how much of a difference you’re making. A lot of families were going hungry until the food came.”
In addition, last year Running Strong successfully advocated along with the Food Research & Action Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Feeding America and other nonprofit organizations for the USDA to extend several key waivers which allowed for the continued operation of the Summer Nutrition Program through June 30, 2021.
Summer Youth Feeding Program keeps kids full and happy with nutritious summer meals
Right now, through August 6, hundreds of children are receiving free “grab-‘n-go” breakfasts and lunches at three locations scattered out on the vast and remote Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota through our Summer Youth Feeding Program.
Thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, for 53 weekdays between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Cheyenne River children will receive two healthy, filling meals that they most likely would not be receiving at home.
At the three locations, we are projecting serving 100 breakfasts and lunches each day at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Red Scaffold, 150 breakfasts and lunches each day at the Boys & Girls Club in La Plant, and 200 breakfasts and lunches at a Nutrition Feeding Site at Cherry Creek – to total of 11,925 meals throughout the summer.
A typical breakfast, which costs less than $2.50, includes cereal, fresh fruit, juice and milk, while a lunch of a turkey, roast beef or ham sandwich, with vegetables such as carrots or celery, chips, fresh fruit like a banana, applesauce and milk is less than $4.50.
And as SYFP coordinator Stacie Lee reported following the conclusion of last year’s program, “All communities expressed their appreciation for the Running Strong Summer Youth Feeding Program as they know that without Running Strong a lot of the children would be going without a breakfast and lunch.”
“I am a parent of six grandchildren. I just want to say thank you for the program. My grandchildren got sack lunches every day on Monday through Friday this summer. This summer we got breakfast sacks too, which was really nice. I just want to say we appreciate all you do to feed our kids. Hope it goes on next year because a lot of families depended on your program.”
– A grateful grandparent from Cherry Creek
Tia Yazzie and Shakotah Star Billie Dreamstarter update
Back in 2020, Running Strong for American Indian Youth ® and Billy Mills named ten new Dreamstarters who had applied under the theme of “Health and Wellness”, including Tia Yazzie (Diné), of Salt Lake City, UT, and Shakotah Billie (Diné), of Spanish Fork, UT. Over the past year and coming summer, both young women have been working hard at implementing their dreams among youth in their community.
In November, Tia hosted a “Meet & Greet” via Zoom for Native youth to learn more about the Native Youth Support Group which “is designed to create a healthy, safe space for Native youth aged 12 – 24 years old in the Wasatch Valley.” Since then, she has been busy holding monthly virtual sessions for participants to hear from local elders, celebrate holidays with craft sessions, and discuss topics like mental health and taking care of your emotions.
In the town of Spanish Fork, UT, about 50 miles away, Shakotah Billie is helping her community learn about health and wellness in a different form. Shakotah’s project, “Living in Hózhó”, teaches the five different types of wellness: spiritual, cultural, physical, mental, and environmental. Shakotah embraces Hózhó by planting a communal traditional spiral garden; hosting a food drive for Navajo elders; preparing healthy foods by traditional means, such as grinding corn flour; and more encourage her peers and younger participants to celebrate wellness in their culture.
Both Dreamstarters are looking forward to summer, where each have even more projects planned. “I am so grateful for this opportunity, I want to thank everyone who has helped me and will be helping me achieve my dream!” Shakotah told us. “We are excited for this summer!” Tia added.
Dreamstarter Teacher Applications are open until July 8th
Educators – teachers, librarians, administrators and staff – who teach in predominantly Native American schools still have until July 8 to apply for a $1,000 Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Dreamstarter Teacher grant for the betterment of their students.
Each year, Running Strong selects up to 25 educators to receive Dreamstarter Teacher grants which may be used for practically anything they may need in their classroom including resource materials and books, supplies, equipment, professional development, field trips/transportation, and or stipends to support bringing community liaisons into the classroom.
The application period ends soon! If you are, or know, a teacher or educator of Native students who could use $1,000 for their classroom or school, we encourage you to apply to today.