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Interior Department to launch ‘Indigenous food hubs’

From left to right, Cecilia Garcia, Carol Pray and America Martinez prepare lunch during Immokalee Indian Day in 2018. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

The Department of the Interior announced Sept. 27 that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) would create “Indigenous food hubs” for BIE-operated schools and BIA-operated detention centers.

According to a news release, the goal is to help source Indigenous foods, provide culturally based healthy nutrition education and boost training for healthy and culturally appropriate food preparation.

Florida has two BIE funded schools – the Seminole Tribe’s Ahfachkee School on the Big Cypress Reservation and the Miccosukee Indian School west of Miami.

The announcement was made as part of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which took place Sept. 28 in Washington, D.C. The conference’s goal was to help motivate the public and private sectors to “comprehensively address the intersections of food, hunger, nutrition and health to end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity.”

“Food is an integral cornerstone of Indigenous communities – it represents our connection to the earth and the customs that have been passed down through generations,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), said in the release. “Yet Indigenous communities face historically high rates of food insecurity and often lack access to affordable and healthy foods.”

Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland said in the release that the initiative would provide healthier food to Indigenous communities and help to repair the damage to Indigenous food ways by “the harmful policies of the past, including colonization, relocation and assimilation of tribal communities.” 

Officials said that for the first time, a nutritionist would be hired to support the BIE and BIA in developing culturally appropriate nutrition and training standards that draw from Indigenous knowledge. Special efforts would be made to identify and connect Native venders and producers, as well as community-based systems such as tribal food sovereignty and health programs, the release said.