Reclaiming Indigenous Food Sovereignty

What was once a rare disease, type two diabetes is now the highest amongst Native American and Alaskan Native adults and children than any other racial and ethnic group in the United States. Those children, particularly living on or near reservation and tribal lands, are more likely to experience type 2 diabetes, food insecurity, and obesity in comparison to all other children in the United States. Food access is an issue at multiple levels: access to seasonally available wild foods, financial access to fresh, whole foods, and access to the cultural knowledge to prepare and preserve traditional foods. The biggest contributors to this loss in food access were forced removals from native lands onto barren reservations, forced assimilation in Native American Boarding Schools, and the government-provided commodity food that was then distributed to those on reservations. Those foods commonly included white flour, lard, sugar, dairy products, and canned meats- a major contrast from the unprocessed, whole, traditional foods they were use to.

It is because of this epidemic, people within the Indigenous communities are working towards an indigenous foods movement as a means of cultural renewal, environmental sustainability, and a way to reclaim Food Sovereignty.

“Indigenous food sovereignty is the act of going back to our roots as Indigenous peoples and using the knowledge and wisdom of our people that they used when they oversaw their own survival. This includes the ability to define one’s own food sources and processes, such as the decision to hunt, trap, fish, gather, harvest, grow and eat based on Indigenous culture and ways of life.”

Below, is a TedxTalk from Sean Sherman, who further discusses where the traditional knowledge got lost, and how himself and many other indigenous folks are taking matters into their own hands, reclaiming their Indigenous Food Sovereignty.

Here, we will be listing just a few of the many Indigenous people/ Indigenous-led Organizations reclaiming Food Sovereignty within the United States.

Indigikitchen

An online cooking show dedicated to re-indigenizing diets using digital media. Using foods native to their Americas, Indigikitchen gives viewers the important tools they need to find and prepare food in their own communities. Beyond that, it strengthens the ties to their cultures and reminds them of the inherent worth of their identities while fueling their physical bodies.

Brian Yazzie “Yazzie the Chef”

A Diné/Navajo chef and food justice activist from Dennehotso, Arizona and based out of Saint Paul, MN. He is the founder of Intertribal Foodways catering company, a YouTube creator under Yazzie The Chef TV, a delegate of Slow Food Turtle Island Association, and a member at I-Collective. Yazzie’s career is devoted to the betterment of tribal communities, wellness, and health.

Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef

Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota, born in Pine Ridge, SD, has been cooking across the US and World for the last 30 years. His main culinary focus has been on the revitalization and awareness of indigenous foods systems in a modern culinary context. Sean has studied on his own extensively to determine the foundations of these food systems which include the knowledge of Native American farming techniques, wild food usage and harvesting, land stewardship, salt and sugar making, hunting and fishing, food preservation, Native American migrational histories, elemental cooking techniques, and Native culture and history in general to gain a full understanding of bringing back a sense of Native American cuisine to today’s world.

The Sioux Chef team works to make indigenous foods more accessible to as many communities as possible. To open opportunities for more people to learn about Native cuisine and develop food enterprises in their tribal communities.

Three Sisters Gardens

Farmer Alfred Melbourne is the owner and operator of Three Sisters Gardens and a long time resident of West Sacramento. Based on traditional native teachings, Three Sisters Gardens is an Indidgenous-led organization with a mission to teach at risk youth how to grow/harvest/distribute organic vegetables, connect Native youth back to the land, build connections with community elders, and reclaim food sovereignty. They donate food to the Yolo Food Bank, and also hold a “Free Farm” stand where they offer their veggies free to to the community.  

 

Linda Black Elk

Linda Black Elk is an ethnobotanist who serves as the Food Sovereignty Coordinator at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota. She specializes in teaching about Indigenous plants and their uses as food and medicine. She teaches classes like “Food Preservation and Storage” and “From Farm and Forage to Fork.” She also uses her wealth of knowledge and charismatic ways of connecting through her YouTube channel, covering topics like making homemade cedar blueberry cough syrup, drying squash varieties, and how to make plant-based medicines at home for various health support.
Black Elk’s drive to make wild plants and plant medicine accessible, applicable, and relevant is so strong it resonates throughout all she does. She is also a founding board member of the Mni Wichoni Health Circle, an organization devoted to decolonized medicines.

Reclaiming control over local food systems is an important step toward ensuring the long-lasting health and economic well-being of Native people and communities. Native food system control has proven to increase food production, improve health and nutrition, and eliminate food insecurity in rural and reservation-based communities, while also promoting entrepreneurship and economic development.
This is Indigenous resilience, moving through the era of disconnection to their foods and traditions and reclaiming their intergenerational knowledge.

The Davis Food Co-op occupies land that belongs to three federally recognized Patwin tribes: Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community, Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation, and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.

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Support (Y)our Local Food Security Organizations

support (y)our local food security Organizations

 As of October 2022, grocery store prices are 5.3% higher than they were a year ago. To put this in perspective, during the decade prior to the start of the pandemic the average annual increase in grocery store prices were only about 1.3%.

Supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and Climate Change are some of the major leading factors for why we are seeing such high inflation increases.

Because of this, more people are struggling to get access to food, resulting in more folks experiencing food insecurity.

 

Food-insecure is defined by households that are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, at some time during the year, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.

There are many non-profits and charities that are working to address food insecurity and increase food sovereignty

We’re highlighting a few of the local organizations here in Davis and two in Sacramento, giving details on when and where they distribute food if you or someone you know is in need.

All of these local organizations are best supported through volunteering, donations of food and financial donations, and spreading the word to members of the community. Links will be included for both volunteering and donating options for each organization.

The Night Market 

Established in 2019, The Night Market’s mission is to reduce food waste and increase food security in Davis while fostering a sense of community. They recover food that would otherwise go to waste from Davis restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores. They also have a focus on sustainability by prioritizing bikes equipped with carts to transport food, to minimize their carbon emissions.

They provide the free meals Monday-Friday, from 9pm- 11pm in Central Park and is available for anyone that is in need. 

For the times that they have leftovers, they package the remaining food in compostable containers and drop them off at the Freedge that is hosted at the Davis Food Co-op.

 

 

Davis Food Not Bombs/Sacramento Food Not Bombs

Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer movement that recovers food that would otherwise be discarded, and shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry in over 1,000 cities in 65 countries in protest to war, poverty, and destruction of the environment. There are two local Food Not Bombs, one in Davis and one in Sacramento.

Davis Food Not Bombs serves meals every 2nd and 4th Sundays
at Central Park (4th & C) from 1-2pm

If you’re interested in getting involved, send them an email at [email protected], message them on Instagram or Facebook.

Sacramento Food Not Bombs serves a free vegan meal every Sunday at 1:30pm at Cesar Chavez Plaza (Between 9th & 10th and I and J Street)

If you’d like to volunteer with Sacramento Food Not Bombs or make a donation of food or funds, please contact us at [email protected]yahoo.com for more information.

Both will also accept anyone to just show up at the serving times and chat with them to discuss ways you can get involved.

 

NorCal Resist

Established in 2016, NorCal Resist fights injustices through making a positive impact in their communities. They host educational events and trainings, organize actions, and maintain a variety of resources and programs that provide support to those in need.

NorCal Resist does food distribution in several ways – Monthly drive thru distributions where they partner with the Sacramento Food Bank, a community table at their monthly brake light clinics, and direct deliveries to their community at home, as needed. They have a Mutual Aid Farm, Seeds of Solidarity, which has distributed over 1,800 pounds of organic food to the community so far this year.

Dates, times, and locations of their distribution programs can be found through their Instagram.

More information to volunteer for one of their programs can be found here.
Donate here

 

Fourth and Hope

Fourth & Hope serves dinner each night at 5 p.m. to anyone in need of a hot meal. Breakfast and lunch are offered to clients staying at the shelter. Location is 1901 E Beamer St, Woodland, CA 95776

Information on volunteering can be found here

Purchase items from their wishlist here.

Donate here

Yolo Food Bank

Yolo Food Bank coordinates the recovery, storage, and distribution of more than 11 million pounds of food annually. They collaborate with a network of grocers and retailers, farmers and distributors, the private sector and governmental agencies, and 64 nonprofit partner organizations countywide. They distribute food through these 4 programs:

Eat Well Yolo
Providing weekly distributions of fresh produce, dairy,
meat, and other non-perishable goods.

Eat Home Yolo
Delivering groceries to low income senior citizens, people with disabilities, or mobility-restricted neighbors.

Kids Farmers Market
Supporting elementary-school-aged children’s access to local produce and nutrition education.

Nonprofit Partners
Supplying fresh produce, shelf-stable food, and personal care products to 64+ nonprofit partners countywide.

You can volunteer individually or in a group to pack food, distribute food, and/or volunteer as a driver. Find all this information on volunteering here.

Find food near you
Donate here

 

The Pantry

Many students at UC Davis find themselves choosing between basic essentials such as food and hygiene products and the required costs of college. It is for this reason that The Pantry was established in 2010 to help offset these financial burdens and ensure that students may continue on to successfully complete and obtain their degrees.

The Pantry is open to all students, staff, and faculty at UC Davis. This also includes graduate, PhD, and postdoctoral students, serving folks of all levels of income and need.

Their current Fall 2022 Schedule is:

Monday & Wednesday & Friday: 10:30am – 4:00pm
Tuesday & Thursday: 9:30am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 12:00pm – 2:00pm

While walk-ins are welcome, they also have an online portal to order non-perishable items in advance, and have a digital list, that is updated hourly, to show what perishable items they currently have.

They have volunteer opportunities for student, which more information can be found here.

Donate Here

More than 90% of funding for The Pantry comes from community donations. 

Davis Community Meals and Housing

Davis Community Meals and Housing offers a free meal on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and lunch on Saturday from 11:30 am to 12:15 pm at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, located at 640 Hawthorn Lane, Davis, CA 95616.

The food is prepared and served by individual community volunteers, religious organizations, school groups, UC Davis and community service groups, and many others.

Volunteers help prepare the meals, set up the dining hall, serve the meals and clean up the kitchen and hall at the conclusion of the meal. Volunteers are needed from 9 am to 11:30 am and from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm on Tuesdays and from 9 am to 1 pm on Saturdays.

Find more information on Volunteering here

Purchase items from their wish list

Donate Here

The Freedge

The Freedge aims to reduce food insecurity and food waste, while simutaneously building a stronger, more sustainable community. They promote equal access to healthy food through the installation of community freedges (public refrigerators) that are for anyone who is in need within the community.

There are currently 5 Freedges throughout Davis:

Davis Food Co-op 

UCD Memorial Union

UCD Silo

1221 Eureka Ave

2013 Whittier Dr

Perishable and non-perisable items can be dropped off by anyone from the community (excluding raw meat or alcohol).

“Take what you need, give what you don’t.”

Freedge Locations Map

Donate Here 

There isn’t one solution to food insecurity, but many. It requires an approach that includes government policy, better housing, employment opportunities, social assistance, training and education, affordable fresh food markets, and more.

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Why the Zero Waste Community Needs More Inclusivity

Why The Zero Waste Community Needs More Inclusivity

 

        By now, most of us have heard the term “zero waste”, which one of the simple ways to put it, means to send little to no items to landfill. Zero waste living is about consuming less, being more conscious about our purchasing habits, supporting eco-friendly companies, and overall reducing our environmental impact. We’ve seen the zero waste community grow immensely over the past decade, especially as the Climate Crisis continues to rise.

 

        But the issue with this community, is the lack of inclusion for our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Big advocates tend to be White, seemingly middle-classed women. A typical day for them consists of them making their weekly batch of almond milk and placing it in their perfectly labeled jars, putting on their $350 dollar dress that was made completely out of plastic bottles, and the plastic free produce they just purchased from their local Farmer’s Market (which of course was only a five-minute bicycle ride from their house). For some, it comes off as an unattainable lifestyle if you are not White and not in the middle-upper class, but that simply is not true. 

 

 

BIPOC communities have been living zero waste lifestyles for thousands of years. Most cultures live this way without even identifying themselves as “zero waste”, as it’s just something they have always done; repurposing empty containers to store leftovers, hand-me-down clothing, using every part of an animal they just harvested, etc. Thrifting was once only for low-income communities and was only for “poor people” because it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing or “cool”. Now that it has become trendy, everyone is doing it.

Zero waste community members have a responsibility to ensure their environmental sustainability is working towards:

  1. Ending Fossil Fuel extractions and Fossil-Fuel based products like plastic.
  2. Getting commitment from agencies and local governments to stop funding false or short-term solutions like waste-to-energy.
  3. Addressing Food Insecurity and Food Deserts in BIPOC communities.
  4. Addressing Environmental Racism.
  •  While Indigenous people comprise 5% of the world population, Indigenous People protect about 80% of the Earth’s Biodiversity in the Forests, Deserts, Grasslands, and Marine Environments in which they have lived for centuries.
  • Studies have shown that White neighborhoods have at least 4 times as many grocery stores as predominately Black neighborhoods.

   These are just some of the many reasons      why this community has to be more             inclusive if it is to survive and achieve its     end goal in protecting Mother Earth.

The movement needs to better reflect more diverse experiences to broaden its audience. BIPOC struggle to resonate with the zero-waste movement when they do not see their own personal environmentalism experiences in conversations. It must go beyond the conversations of what zero waste products you are purchasing and consuming.         

To create a more inclusive Zero Waste community, we must follow/spotlight more BIPOC leaders, broaden the topics/issues within the Zero Waste Community, & have current advocates acknowledge how their portrayal of their lifestyle comes off as inaccessible to most people, especially within the BIPOC Community, and change the narrative of what it means to be Zero Waste.   

More Resources available here:

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

Food Deserts

Environmental Justice for PFJ: BIPOC Communities Bear The Burden Of Plastic Pollution

65+ BIPOC Influencers and Creators in the Sustainable and Environmentalism Movement 

Environmental Justice Organizations

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Farming While Black – Leah Penniman Speech

From EcoFarm’s YouTube Channel:

“Some of our most cherished sustainable farming practices have roots in African wisdom. Yet discrimination and violence against African- American farmers has led to a decline from 14% of all growers in 1920 to less than 2% today. Soul Fire Farm, co-founded by author, activist, and farmer Leah Penniman, is committed to ending racism and injustice in our food system. Earlier this year at the EcoFarm Conference, Leah shared how you too can be part of the movement for food sovereignty and help build a food system based on justice, dignity, and abundance for all members of our community.”

“Leah Penniman is a Black Kreyol educator, farmer/peyizan, author, and food justice activist from Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, NY. She co-founded Soul Fire Farm in 2011 and has been farming since 1996. Leah is part of a team that facilitates powerful food sovereignty programs – including farmer training for Black & Brown people, a subsidized farm food distribution program for communities living under food apartheid, and domestic and international organizing toward equity in the food system. Her book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land is a love song for the land and her people.”

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