OYATE TA KOLA KU Teaching Kitchens

oyate ta kola ku teaching kitchens

It’s the nutrition. It’s the traditional way. A healthy diet is truly the Lakota way.

Billy Mills
Lakota (Sioux)
National Spokesperson, Running Strong from American Indian Youth
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THE CHALLENGE: FOOD INSECURITY ON PINE RIDGE:

Indigenous People on Pine Ridge reservation face obstacles in attaining food security and nutrition. The Pine Ridge Native American Reservation is home to 40,000 members of the Oglala Lakota Nation and spans nearly 3,500 square miles. However, those 3,500 square miles might as well be a food desert.

The reservation is almost one hundred miles away from the nearest grocery store that provides healthy food, and the people of Pine Ridge have limited choices for healthy food and fresh fruit and vegetables. 

Food insecurity on the reservation contributes to chronic health problems among the Oglala Lakota since it is more convenient for tribal members to load up on processed foods during their trips to the supermarket than on fresh produce with a short shelf life. As a result, a fifth of Oglala Lakota County residents have diabetes and other diet-related diseases. 

Due to limited healthy food choices, the scarcity of grocery stores, and the high poverty rate, residents of the reservation are forced into a profound state of food insecurity. And this will continue for generations if something is not done to combat it.

JUST IMAGINE THE FUTURE

IMAGINING THE FUTURE: TEACHING AND COMMERCIAL KITCHENS AND GARDENS AT OYATE TA KOLA KU CENTER

Food brings communities together in many ways. A Community Center focused on healthful and ongoing access to food will be a key component of overcoming food insecurity on Pine Ridge Reservation. 

While there are a handful of federal programs designed to address the food insecurity within Tribal communities, it is also important to explore grassroot programs that encourage Native American food sovereignty. This is exactly what Running Strong is doing on Pine Ridge reservation. By providing a new community kitchen, Running Strong is seeking to create food security and healthy nutrition on the reservation. Our organic gardens and food programs strive to tackle malnutrition by providing healthy meals and fresh produce to Native American children and their families. 

The teaching and community kitchens at Oyate Teca Community Center will be equipped to teach Indigenous food preparation and preservation and also provide easy access to healthy meals on the reservation.
The commercial and teaching kitchens combined will support cooking and canning classes for home economics as well as mass food preparation for community events. 

The 362 square foot teaching kitchen will have four cooking stations and a center island to accommodate lessons. Combined with the 1,400 square foot commercial kitchen, with walk in freezers and coolers, double ovens, double sinks, and more, healthful cooking will be a cornerstone of the center.

The produce used at the kitchen, and directly supporting the families and community at large, will come directly from the gardens at Oyate Teca. The Oyate Teca greenhouse, hoop house, and gardens will provide the basis to changing the nutritional lifestyle of youth, families, and the community. 

From Oyate Teca garden to Oyate Teca Kitchen to table…. working together towards a stronger, healthier, self-sufficient future.

The Oyate Center has assisted gardeners in marketing their produce in Farmers Markets and preservation of their produce. The gardening classes were huge and taught by experts and were still able to provide individual attention to each student. The students were mostly adults and parents that missed learning these gardening techniques many because of going off to boarding schools. Even this past year, because of the pandemic, gardening classes still happened every Wednesday evening via Zoom and 35-45 students tuned in.

John, Retired Educator

The need for a larger facility is critical for all that they (Oyate Youth Center) do. There were many times we were side by side with others who benefitted from the trainings. The garden class, the cooking class…were much appreciated by all who participated. The need for larger kitchen space (is apparent) and better than making use of the small space. Those of us who participate in the garden classes learned how to grow our own food, shown how to preserve our food for the winters, and how to increase our health and well-being by growing our own food in our backyards. More could be accomplished if they had more space and classrooms.”

Cec, Cooking class participant

Each year that I participate in the program, my gardening confidence increases, and my garden itself seems to improve. For instance, I added two more rows to my garden this year, which means I have room to plant a larger variety of vegetables. Students are willing to share their extra plants, as Rosie did with the raspberry shrubs from her garden site. Last year she shared jumping onions and AJ provided me with garlic bulbs in the fall. The center helps with incentives to keep us striving for improved gardening. Canning products provided assist in preserving the food… I have an extended family that I help provide with fresh vegetables and home canned goods.

Norma, gardening class participant