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Tribal Food Sovereignty a Focus of NAFDPIR Conference

Posted by Keri Bradford-Gomez (Choctaw), Senior Technical Advisor, Food and Nutrition Service in Food and Nutrition Initiatives Nutrition Security
Nov 14, 2022
A filet of salmon encrusted in a wild rice coating rests on a white plate

When you recognize the food on your plate, you recall memories of sharing meals with loved ones.

At the 33rd National Association of Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations, or NAFDPIR, conference last month in Prior Lake, MN, I had the opportunity to share food-memories with attendees from dozens of tribes, including my own, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Since 1977, tribes and intertribal organizations have been eligible to receive food packages (formerly called commodities) from the USDA. Historically, products in the food packages were not traditional to tribes participating in the program.

However, in recent years and in consultation with tribes, more traditional products have been incorporated into food packages. For example, participating Chickasaw Nation tribal members now have access to hominy ("tanchi" in my language) through the food package, and all participating tribal members have access to wild rice ("psiŋ" in the Dakota language, spoken by members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, in whose homelands the NAFDPIR conference was held). These easy-to-recognize foods are used in traditional tribal dishes, such as “tanchi labona,” a Choctaw stew made with hominy and pork.

Ten colorful recipe cards contain nutrition information and cooking instructions

In addition to making traditional foods more accessible, the USDA works with tribes to maintain a sharing gallery of recipes, factsheets, photos and more. In fact, in the gallery's video section, you can watch a cooking demonstration with Menominee Chef Francisco Alegria, who also gave a demonstration at last month's NAFDPIR conference. Using wild rice and salmon--products available in today's food packages--Chef Alegria created a wild rice-crusted blackened salmon filet.

A major highlight of the conference was when USDA Deputy Under Secretary Stacy Dean announced Round 2 of the FDPIR Self-Determination Demonstration Project, open through Jan. 31, 2023, to all tribes. Learn how the eight tribes awarded in Round 1 used their funds to purchase local, traditional, and tribally produced foods by visiting the Self-Determination Demonstration Project website.

The demonstration project is just one way the Biden-Harris Administration supports tribal food sovereignty, a commitment outlined in the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, discussed during the historic White House Conference in September. Building off that commitment, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced exciting new resources and cooperative agreements with tribal-serving organizations that will expand the USDA’s Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative. Learn more at the USDA Office of Tribal Relations website.