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Elizabeth Hoover, Micmac and Mohawk, is an associate professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University. She's also a member of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance.

She tells Indian Country Today about the impact the pandemic is having on food systems for Indian Country and how tribes are pushing for changes to government nutritional programs.

”We're hearing about increases in the number of families who are applying but also an increase in the amount of food that families are taking away. So there's a certain amount allotted and more people are taking that full amount than had been in the past.”

“People are looking to food banks, which are increasingly running out of supplies. They're looking at different mutual aid projects and there's a lot of grassroots projects that have popped up.”

“For example, in Minneapolis, you have the folks at the American Indian Center such as Brian Yazzie and some other chefs out of the Gatherings Cafe. There are a number of food feeding programs for different parts of the Native community that have been shut down."

“The Cheyenne River Youth Project in South Dakota has been creating meals for the youth that they work with. You have all of these community projects that are trying to step in and do that work of feeding folks that ordinarily would have gotten meals at different programs or schools or centers that have all been closed down now.”

“I think having food suddenly become less available has peaked the interest of some folks who might not have been as interested in these different grassroots projects. I'm hearing, especially from seed keepers and people running different projects that are part of the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network, that all of a sudden everybody's like, ‘Oh yeah, remember how you are always talking about seeds? Where can I get those seeds?’

“People are looking to food banks, which are increasingly running out of supplies. They're looking at different mutual aid projects and there's a lot of grassroots projects that have popped up.”

“People who have been part of the food box working group have been pushing to make it so that they can have more local control over what goes into that box. So exercising that 638 Authority, letting tribal programs decide where to spend some of the money to put the food into those food boxes.”

“This is important because this will allow those food distribution programs to support local farms and tribal run farms and other kinds of food producers.To be able to provide locally important foods to people in that community rather than having all of the boxes be identical."

"And so you're procuring wild rice and then sending it all over the country rather than keeping it to the region where people really value that rice.”

“It’s important to be able to tailor those food boxes to what those families there really want and need.”“They should be given first priority to the people who have interacted with those foods for a very long time.”

“The program started as a way of offloading commodities that the government bought as a way of stabilizing prices and supporting farmers, making them shelf stable and then offloading them to hungry folks in America and has since because of the efforts of folks who were really been fighting to make them more nourishing and less just a commodity.”

“The food box working groups have been pushing to get more fresh fruits and vegetables in there to get lower salt content, lower sugar content and some of those cans. “I think they're pushing in the right direction because families are going to continue to need this kind of assistance.”

“Be creative. Go see what's in your yard, a lot of the things we identify as weeds are actually edible if you just blanched them or steamed them. So, don't dump a bunch of herbicides in your yard. Figure out what's out there to be eaten.”

Hoover's blog.

Sign up for the Virtual Intertribal Food Summit:

More information on the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance here or follow them on Facebook:

Also on Indian Country Today, Washington Editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye reports updated COVID-19 numbers in Indian Country.

The anchor and executive producer of the program is Patty Talahongva. 

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