In recent years, Native American communities in Minnesota have rallied around the widespread, societal health challenges of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Native communities recognize the rapid and alarming ascendance of these ailments -- which generally afflict Native communities at a greater proportion than the general population -- as an affront to some of the communities’ strongest cultural institutions and, in some cases, as another trauma resulting from the incursion of non-Native ways of being. Tribal nutrition programs promote healthy food knowledge and preparation; garden programs encourage and support healthy food production; and community members employ varied means to showcase traditional food practices for staple foods central to cultural identity. These and other interventions to improve nutritional knowledge, cooking skills, and access to healthy foods have met with varying degrees of success, making next steps difficult to ascertain. This study was designed improve understanding the factors that play into individual food related decisions and behaviors; its purpose to inform future community-scale interventions related to health and food systems.
We led participants through a process of making personal food system maps and then followed up with those individuals to discuss their food-related actions and decisions. We learned that participants perceived that they were generally able to make decisions about food as they wished. Many participants emphasized the importance of natural, wild food sources and food procurement strategies as invaluable means to connect with nature, family, friends, and culture. Social and family networks were active when tangible or financial resources were limited. Indeed, for those who felt limited in their food decisions, financial constraints posed the greatest barrier, followed by constraints related to owned assets, such as food preparation equipment or vehicles. Moreover, grief, loss, and other life stresses often interfered with individual’s ability to strategize and adapt to financial or other limitations.
Our preliminary results suggest several key directions for future inquiry and programming. This study was based on participant’s perceptions; future assessment should strive to determine whether community members’ desired food choices are, in fact, healthy. Also, relatively high availability of healthy foods in the area suggests that creation of new food access venues is unlikely to change eating habits without additional, related interventions. Finally, participant comments suggest that culturally relevant food production and procurement represent a feasible frame for food and nutrition education and that major life phase changes offer opportunities for accessing interested community members.
Fond du Lac Band, University of Minnesota Extension, Masters of Development Practice (MDP) program at University of Minnesota
Walsh, Amy; Hamid, Saleema; Wilsey, David.
The Gwayakosijigan (Compass) Project: A food system mapping collaboration of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and University of Minnesota Extension.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.