Baltimore, MD – The Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health announced today a grant of $150,000 from the Walmart Foundation for their Feast for the Future initiative to promote nutrition education for American Indian children and expand access to healthy food in tribal communities across the southwestern U.S.
Feast for the Future works to encourage healthy eating in American Indian communities through school-based garden and nutrition education programs, re-introducing healthy indigenous eating practices to young people, and strengthening local agriculture.
Nearly one-third of American Indian and Alaska Native children are obese—the highest rate of any racial group in the country. Native children also have twice the level of type 2 diabetes and food insecurity. Many tribal lands are food deserts, defined as impoverished communities that lack access to healthy and affordable food.
“Our support of the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health will help American Indian children and teens learn how to grow and enjoy nourishing, culturally resonant foods,” said Karrie Dennison, Director of Hunger and Nutrition for the Walmart Foundation. “We are excited to help families prepare and enjoy healthy meals together.”
The grant will help Feast for the Future reach an estimated 3,000 people across the Navajo Nation, Santo Domingo Pueblo, and White Mountain Apache lands. Hundreds of children will learn to grow and prepare healthy foods through Feast for the Future’s Edible School Garden project. In garden classrooms stocked with outdoor ovens, hoop houses, and compost piles, students learn gardening basics like weeding and winterizing, as well as health topics like portion control and label reading.
Tribal elders and medicine men helped design the curriculum for Feast for the Future’s traditional foodways education program, in which farmers and elders across these tribal communities will be paired with children ages 5-18 to teach traditional agriculture, language, and culture through one-on-one experiential learning. Elders will demonstrate how traditional foods and plants are harvested and used, speaking their traditional languages.
“The Walmart Foundation’s generous support and commitment to improving the well-being of American Indian people through our Feast for the Future initiative is a true blessing,” said Allison Barlow, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health.
Feast for the Future is planting the seeds for long-lasting change. The Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health will work with tribal partners to incorporate these programs within their communities’ existing agencies to create long-term nutritious food sources and healthy eating practices. The Center is also packaging the program for replication and adoption by additional tribes.
About the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health
Founded in 1991, Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health works in partnership with tribal communities to design public health programs to raise the health status, self-sufficiency, and health leadership of Native people around the world.
Based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Center has satellite offices on tribal lands of the White Mountain Apache, Navajo Nation, and Santo Domingo Pueblo. The Center’s programs currently reach more than 50 tribal nations in over 15 states. The Center’s historic partnerships with tribes have achieved landmark public health breakthroughs credited with saving over 60 million children’s lives worldwide. To learn more, visit AmericanIndian.jhu.edu.
Photo by Ed Cunicelli