Feeding America Celebrates National Native American Heritage Month with Educational Programs Featuring Native American Leaders

Feeding America Will Host Native American Leaders to Raise Awareness of the Unique Challenges Their Communities Face and the Ways in Which Tribal Citizens Have Worked to Overcome Them Through Food Sovereignty Initiatives

November 2, 2022

In recognition of National Native American Heritage Month, Feeding America, the nationwide network of 200 food banks, 21 statewide associations and 60,000 partner food pantries and meal programs, today announced a series of educational presentations featuring Native leaders, chefs and scholars. These presentations represent an opportunity to raise awareness about the unique challenges Native American communities have faced concerning hunger and food insecurity. Each presentation will share collective learning on the ways in which tribal citizens have developed food sovereignty initiatives to overcome those challenges. 

A long history of harmful federal policies has led Native American communities to experience high rates of poverty and some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the United States. The USDA reports that only 26% of Native communities are within one mile of a supermarket, compared to 59% of all people living in the United States, making it difficult for people living in Native American communities to benefit from federal food programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.     

“To overcome these inequities, the Native American Sovereignty movement advocates for a return to the Native foodways that existed prior to colonization,” said Mark Ford, Feeding America Director of Native/Tribal Partnerships. “It supports the self-determination of tribes to access healthy and culturally meaningful foods that are produced by Native Americans.” 

According to the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, “food sovereignty goes well beyond ensuring that people have enough food to meet their physical needs. It asserts that people must reclaim their power in the food system by rebuilding the relationships between people and the land, and between food providers and those who eat."

“Tribal leaders, elders, Native chefs and healers have endorsed this movement to promote the return to healthy and thriving communities and preserve culture and traditions for future generations,” continued Ford. “The speakers we have scheduled for Native American Heritage Month are all leading advocates for Native American food sovereignty. These featured presenters will help us understand the importance and need for us to support this initiative." 

  • Chef Sean Sherman, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, kicked off the presentation series with a cooking demonstration and presentation focused on Native American food sovereignty. Chef Sherman was born and raised in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Cooking in kitchens across the United States and Mexico for over 30 years, Sherman is renowned nationally and internationally in the culinary movement of Indigenous foods. His primary focus is the revitalization and evolution of Indigenous foods systems throughout North America. His restaurant, Owamni, opened in Minneapolis and was recently ranked best new restaurant in the United States by the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards.  
  • Denisa Livingston, Diné (Navajo) of New Mexico, M.P.H., is an unapologetic food justice organizer, an Indigenous public health systems consultant and an Ashoka Fellow. Livingston leads the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance (DCAA), which is composed of grassroots-level community health advocates from various Diné Nation communities and surrounding areas. DCAA is a voice for Diné communities and works to raise awareness, inform, educate and mobilize community members to combat obesity, diabetes and other chronic health issues. Livingston’s presentation is entitled: Empowering our Communities through Indigenous Foodways and Lifeways: Presentation of Indigenous Realities, Experiences, Challenges and Opportunities Regarding our Food Systems and Advocacy Addressing Nutritional Trauma and Food Sovereignty.  
  • Dr. Rebecca M. Webster, J.D., Ph.D., is an enrolled citizen of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth in its American Indian Studies Department. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the University’s Tribal Administration and Governance programs. Prior to joining the American Indian Studies team at Duluth, she served the Oneida Nation as an attorney for 13 years, where she provided legal advice for the Nation's administration on government relations, jurisdiction concerns and a wide variety of tribal land issues. Her research interests focus on tribal administration and food sovereignty. Dr. Webster will present on the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Roots of Democracy and how our U.S. Constitution was modeled after the Five Native Nations Confederacy. She will explain how the democracy was created and how it is different from our U.S. democracy and Constitution.

Feeding America is committed to working alongside and learning from Native and tribal communities facing hunger to ensure everyone has access to the food and resources they need to thrive. Feeding America has provided over $100 million in grants to network member food banks to support communities of color, including Native and tribal communities, as well as rural communities disproportionately impacted by food insecurity. For more information on Feeding America’s work with Native American communities please visit https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/native-american.  


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About Feeding America

Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and over 60,000 partner agencies, food pantries and meal programs, we helped provide 5.3 billion meals to tens of millions of people in need last year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve; brings attention to the social and systemic barriers that contribute to food insecurity in our nation; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on X.com.