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.
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.
Plastic Free July Recap at the Co-op
With the end of Plastic Free July, we wanted to give a quick recap of how it impacted the Davis Food Co-op
As you can see in the charts below, at the Co-op:
- We reduced the number of plastic products carried at the Co-op by 1.3% in the month of July, compared to the month of June.
- Plastic product sales decreased by 6.3% for the month of July, compared to the month of June.
- For our Fiscal Year of 2022, we have reduced the number of plastic products carried by 12% compared to FY 2021.
- For our Fiscal Year of 2022, plastic product sales have decreased by 3.3% compared to FY 2021.
While Plastic Free July is over, for many, the journey of reducing plastic waste is just beginning. Research shows that 87% of participants made one or more changes that have become new habits and a way of life.
The Davis Food Co-op encourages you to try something new and stick to it beyond Plastic Free July. With some minor lifestyle changes, we can make a bigger collective difference than we think.
Resources to continue plastic-reducing habits:
Co-op Owner waste reduction tips
Plastic Free Tour of the Co-op
If you have any suggestions or feedback on how we can reduce our plastic consumption at the Co-op, please fill out a Suggestion Form.
5 Plastic Free DIY Recipes
-Glass Jar, with Sealable Lid
-2 Cups Filtered Water
-1-3 Tbsp. Jojoba Oil
-1 Tbsp. Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel
**Optional- 15 drops of essential oils (rose, lavender, & chamomile are great for sensitive skin)
Add all ingredients to a mason jar, or any glass reusable jar you have available and shake the mixture. Apply a quarter-sized amount to a reusable round and apply all over your face. Can be gently used over eyes.
Shake the jar before each use.
All-Purpose Citrus Cleaner
-2 cups worth of peeled Citrus (Orange, Lemon, or Grapefruit. You can use more than one type if you’d like/have it)
-2 cups of White Vinegar
-2 cups of Water
-1 teaspoon of Castile Soap
-Mason Jar or Glass Spray Bottle
1. Add citrus peels and vinegar to a sealable jar. The citrus should be at least half full of the jar. Add vinegar (It should fill the whole jar. Add more vinegar if need be).
2. Seal the jar with a lid. (Avoid a metal lid, if possible, as the vinegar can corrode the metal)
3. Let this infuse for 2-3 weeks.
4. Once it has infused, strain the vinegar, discarding the peels and place the vinegar into a glass spray bottle. (If you have any leftovers, the vinegar mixture can be stored in a sealed jar, in a dark, cool spot.)
5. Add the water and castile soap.
6. Shake the bottle once all ingredients are in the spray bottle.
Shake before each use.
1 cup Filtered Water
1 Tsp Baking Soda
10 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
1 tsp of Xylitol or Stevia
Combine all ingredients to a jar and shake.
Shake jar before each use.
**Never swallow the mouth wash, always spit out.
Bentonite Tooth Paste
2 Tbsp Bentonite Clay
4 Tbsp Filtered Water
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1/4 Teaspoon Stevia or Xylitol
1/8 Teaspoon Sea Salt
10 Drops Peppermint Essential Oils
5 Drops Clove Essential Oil
1. Mix powdered clay with water in a small, non-metal bowl, with a non-metal spoon (metal causes the clay to be less effective).
2. Add remaining ingredients and mix until well blended.
Store in a sealed jar, in a cool spot.
-8 drops of each Essential Oil: Citronella, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, & Mint.
– 2 oz of Alcohol-free Witch Hazel
– 2 oz of Water
Add all items to a glass spray bottle, shake, and you are ready to go! Shake bottle before each use. Apply liberally, avoiding eyes.
Find all of the ingredients for these recipes at your Davis Food Co-op!
A Conversation With Emma Torbert From Cloverleaf Farm
We were fortunate to have the chance to speak with Emma Torbert from Cloverleaf Farm to hear about the unique structure they have and the sustainable practices that they use. Emma got her masters in Horticulture from UCD and worked for the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis for seven years. Cloverleaf is an 8-acre organic orchard and farm outside of Davis, California on the Collins Farm that specializes in peaches, nectarines, apricots, figs, berries, and vegetables. The Cloverleaf follows regenerative principles including no-till, rotational grazing, and cover-cropping. The farm is co-owned by Emma Torbert, Katie Fyhrie, Kaitlin Oki, Yurytzy Sanchez, Neil Singh, Tess Kremer, and Kyle Chambers; who all manage the farm together in a cooperative and consensus-based fashion. You can find The Cloverleaf Farm’s produce at the Sacramento Farmers Market on Sundays and at various grocery stores in Davis, Sacramento, and the Bay Area.
Cloverleaf seems to break the mold of what a traditional farm functions like. Traditionally farms are passed down generationally within families, but all of your farmers come from diverse backgrounds, how did that model get started at Cloverleaf?
“We started out a group of four women and then the farm passed through a number of different partners. As different people were leaving we were realizing that for the sake of future transitions and the longevity of the farm operation a worker-owned cooperative farm would be best, although we are currently still structured as a partnership. There are currently seven partners right now.”
“We’ve been working with the California Center for Co-op Development for the last four years trying to figure out a way that everybody can own equal equity in the farm. 2014 was the first time that we started profit sharing and equity sharing. The equity sharing is not yet equal but that is what we are working with the CCCD on.”
“One of our core principles in our vision statement is working as a team. An important thing in thinking about farm management for us is recognizing everybody’s different skills and working together without an established hierarchical structure. We rotate who gets to be the crew leader every couple of weeks, so they are essentially the boss for those two weeks, which means everyone gets a chance to step into a leadership role.”
How do you limit your greenhouse emissions?
“In terms of limiting our carbon footprint, we do a number of things. In terms of the transportation of our food, we try to deliver as locally as possible. We purposefully choose markets that are closer and do not take our products further than the bay area. We are always making the decision to try to sell closer to home.”
“As for what happens in the field, all of our vegetables get grown no-till. Our orchards and all of our annual crops are no-till, which means that we don’t use a tractor very often at all. In doing that we use less fossil fuel. We’ve also put solar panels around the farm, and can’t wait until we can add more.”
“Something else that really contributes to greenhouse gas emissions is water use. We use moisture sensors so that we use as little water as possible. We tread that fine line of watering as little as possible without stunting the growth of the trees in our orchards.”
What are your pest management practices?
“We are an organic farm so we don’t spray any pesticides while the fruit is on the trees. We do use pheromone sprays, which disrupt the mating cycles of a lot of stone fruit pests. We put out raptor perches and owl boxes. The main pests that we have trouble with are ground squirrels and gophers.”
How do you try to limit your food waste?
We’ve been trying lots of different things for many years and I feel like this year it’s all coming together, we have very little food waste coming from our farm right now. Our compost pile is pretty tiny right now considering the size of our farm.
“We have an Ugly Fruit club, which allows people to buy our third-grade fruit at a discounted price. We also create a lot of value-added products like jams and dried fruit, which allows us to still sell our less aesthetic fruit instead of wasting it.”
“Something else that we do is donate to the food bank, especially this year when we’re worried about our community being food insecure.”
Preparation for Virtual Back to School
Although back to school is very different this year, it is helpful to plan out snack breaks and lunches. Meal prep so that school at home is smoother! Many of our Back to school favorites are on sale 8/21-8/23 for owners!
Back to Schoool Essentials
Meli Wraps are a ziplock and plastic wrap alternative. These beeswax wraps cling to bowls and work great for holding trail mix!
Stasher bags are ziplock 2.0. They are freezer, microwave, and dishwasher safe! These silicon master bags are great for snacks, soups, sandwiches, and more! Make soup in advance, portion out in these bags, and keep in the freezer. When you are ready to eat, place them in a pot of boiling water until thawed or throw in the microwave.
Be prepared with All Good hand sanitizer and sunscreen.
Love Bags makes tote bags, lunch boxes, and more. Best of all their fabric is 100% recycled plastics. Cleaning up the oceans with style!
Kleen Kanteen is a long-time favorite. We got in various sizes to ensure you can stay hydrated! They are insulated and will keep your water cool during this heatwave!
U-Konserve is great for meal prepping. We carry various sizes of these sustainable metal and silicone containers. Prep for the week and these containers stack nicely in the fridge!
Dip or Build
- Bell Peppers and Albacore Salad
- Taco Build (Sweet Potato or Mushroom)
- Pizza Build, use Naan, or make mini pizza dough!
Co-op Owner Waste Reduction Tips
Co-op Owner and Shopper Tips for Plastic Free July!
The availability of bulk products at the Coop determines how well I am able to keep plastics to a minimum. Before the covid-19 restrictions, I brought jars, metal bowls with lids, and homemade fabric bags to get all of my herbs, spices, vinegar, beans, grains, oats, flours, nuts, peanut butter, almond butter, tofu, produce (including salad greens and mushrooms), dish soap, shampoo, and more. As I patiently await the return of these items, there are a number of things I can still do in my effort to keep my plastic consumption down.
Many people may think it is time-consuming and even daunting to say no to plastic, but its really just like any habit change – a little challenging at first, but quick and easy once you get some experience.
- Buy in glass: milk, ketchup, mustard, salsa, yogurt, olives, herbs, and spices, etc. This may mean branching out from favorite brands.
- Purchase nut/oat milks in cartons, not plastic or tetrapaks. The empty cartons can go in the city compost (remove plastic spout first), and are good containers for messy or smelly compost items, possibly stored in your freezer until garbage day.
- Make your own iced tea.
- If you drink seltzer water, consider investing in a Soda Stream.
- Make your own yogurt – easy and kind of magical
- Put those fruits and vegetables loose right in your cart. The clerks at the Coop are very respectful of your produce, and you’re going to wash it before eating anyway.
- If you must put produce in a bag (beans, mushrooms, etc.) use a paper or waxed bag. If the bag is not in good enough shape to reuse afterward, you can put it in your compost bin.
- Store leftovers in jars. A couple of corn cobs fit well in a half-gallon mason jar, which can be stored on its side in the refrigerator.
- Use bar soap, unwrapped, or wrapped in paper that you can recycle or compost.
- Consider toothpaste sold in aluminum tubes.
- Get dish and laundry detergents in cardboard boxes that can be recycled.
- To treat stains on clothing, consider a bar of Fels Naptha, or other stain treatment products available in bar form, packaged in paper.
- If you didn’t bring your shopping bags, put everything back in the cart and unload it into your trunk, where hopefully you have your bags and can use those, but if not, tough it out and deal with all of the items when you get home.
- If you order take-out food from a restaurant, tell them you do not want utensils, napkins, packets of soy sauce, etc.
- At the Farmer’s Market, bring your own bags and juggle the produce into it, you don’t need a plastic bag for that one minute from the scale into your bag. You can also bring your plastic clamshells to reuse.
- Do you really need a plastic liner in your trash can? If you’re composting the wet food waste, probably not. Use the inevitable pouches so many foods come in to throw the occasional gross stuff out.
When striving to follow a more sustainable path and reduce your carbon footprint obvious changes like using a reusable water bottle and buying clothes used may come to mind, but there are more ways then one to be a conscious consumer.
Rethinking how every aspect of your life can become more sustainable is the real key, and that will of course be individual to you!
Every little change adds up, even the ones that aren’t so obvious.
So what about something as simple as an ice cream sundae?
Well, to begin, not all ice creams are the same!
The Real Deal:
By definition, real ice cream should be made like egg custard, then churned and frozen.
In the U.S. the term ice cream is legally required to be made up of a minimum of 10% milkfat, must weigh no less than 4.5 lbs per gallon, and cannot have more than 100% overrun.
Overrun refers to the air that is whipped into the cream during the churning and freezing process and helps contribute to the light, and fluffy texture of ice cream.
Ice creams with low overrun with be denser in comparison to ice creams with high overrun percentages.
Regulating overrun along with weight per gallon is important to ensure that manufactures are not selling ice cream that has more air than cream!
For similar reasons, milk fat content is measured to be sure that the fat content isn’t being replaced with processed oils.
Tip: If you notice that the label says “Frozen Dairy Dessert” it is most likely because the product does not fit the legal standards to be called ice cream.
What to Look Out For:
Is it organic?
For agricultural workers and local people, the health impacts of conventional agrochemical use are numerous.
In general, the standard of living for workers on organic farms is much greater than conventional farm workers.
In addition, the USDA’s has strict regulations for organic.
Organic milk must come from a cow that has not been treated with antibiotics, has not been given hormones ― for either reproduction or growth ― and has been fed at least 30 percent of its diet on pasture.
Is it ethical?
It’s important to put into consideration the ingredients used in the ice cream other than dairy.
Quite often exotic ingredients like chocolate, coffee, and vanilla are used for flavorings and mix-ins and the sourcing of these ingredients greatly impacts the sustainability of the product.
Look for the Fairtrade logo to make sure that the ice cream you are buying was ethically sourced.
Sometimes this will even be noted in the ingredients list if it’s only referring to one ingredient in the ice cream, such as “fair trade cocoa“.
Is it local?
In terms of reducing ‘food miles’ and supporting your local economy, it’s always best to buy direct from farm shops and local businesses.
When choosing ice cream it can be easy to default to the popular brands but you may be surprised to find out that there are creameries local to you and by buying their ice cream you are helping support your local community.
What To Avoid:
Does it contain palm oil?
Palm oil is a vegetable oil sourced from palm trees that are commonly used as an additive in ice cream.
Palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, Pygmy Elephant, and Sumatran Rhino.
The palm oil industry is also responsible for serious violations of human rights including worker exploitation and child labor.
If the ice cream has added oils in the ingredients, opt for sunflower oil instead.
Is it Factory Farmed?
In general factory farms have a very negative impact on the environment, not to mention that the animals are confined and commonly mistreated.
Factory farming greatly contributes to air pollution and is responsible for a huge portion of greenhouse gas emissions through methane production.
Opt for ice cream brands that are local and organic to avoid buying from a factory farm.
Is it GMO-Free?
Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, have been shown to negatively affect habitat biodiversity and the companies responsible for the manufacturing GMO seeds and crops have been criticized for seriously exploiting small-scale farmers.
The spread of GMO crops such as corn, soy, and rice is directly responsible for the destruction of the Monarch butterfly habitat in North America and has caused many indigenous grain species to go extinct.
Opt for brands that have the GMO-free label when not buying organic.
Dairy Free Ice Cream:
When it comes to sustainability choosing a dairy-free ice cream option is a great way to avoid the negatives associated with the quality of the milk used!
Many dairy-free options tend to be made with coconut milk, soy milk, or almond milk or frozen fruit, such as banana.
When looking for dairy-free options be extra careful to avoid unnecessary additives like palm oil.
Sustainable Ice Cream Brands:
Written by Rheanna Smith, Education Specialist
Zero-Waste Kitchen: Towels, Napkins, and Rags
At the Davis Food Co-op, there are many designs of kitchen towels! Or buy some pretty fabric and make some yourself! Stick to 100% cotton or linen to ensure that they are commercially compostable once they’ve run their course.
Making your own Rags
- Old Cotton Shirts
- and/or Old kitchen towels
- Good scissors
- Needle or sewing machine and thread (optional)
Hold onto your old 100% cotton T-shirts and cut them into rags! Old kitchen towels that are stained also make great rags! Start by cutting off the sleeves and cutting out any seams. The best rags are 6-8 inch squares. Start by making the larger rags, and use the sleeves and odd spots to make small rags. Do not worry about making every rag a square, these are not for show and any shape will do! The small rags are great for small messes and for cast iron care!
Cut your kitchen towel into 2 or 4 rectangles, depending on how big you want them. it is nice to have a variety of sizes! Use your needle and thread or sewing machine to hem the edges. Fold ¼ inch of each side in and use a simple stitch to hold it in place. A zig-zag stitch will work the best to stop strings and runners from coming loose.
- Keep a separate bag for dirty rags. The rags are often covered in oil from a cast iron, dust from the bathroom, and various kitchen messes that you do not want staining your clothes! Once your stack is running low, it is time to wash them all including the bag!
- The great thing about using cotton, if you ever clean something that seems to gross to keep the rags, toss them in your city compost bin!
Why this Makes a Difference
More than 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year in the USA. At the Davis Food Co-op alone, 4,491 units (single rolls or multipacks) of paper towels were sold in 2019. Rags are a great way to limit or completely stop your need for paper towels!