Yankton Sioux Tribe and the “Bountiful Backpacks”

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The Yankton Sioux Tribe, located in South Dakota, and the “Bountiful Backpack Program” (BBP) received support from First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) under its “Nourishing Native Children: Feeding Our Future” project that was generously supported by the Walmart Foundation.

The Nourishing Native Children: Feeding Our Future” project provided grants to Native American communities to continue or expand nutrition resources for existing programs that serve American Indian children ages 6-14. The project’s goals were to support Native American community-based feeding programs, and to learn from these efforts and other model programs about best practices, challenges, barriers to success, and systemic and policy issues affecting Native children’s hunger. It also aimed to foster partnerships among programs.

The BBP was aimed at improving the overall nutritional quality of meals eaten at home by children and their families by developing their cooking, food safety and recipe-preparation skills. The BBP linked nutrition education and preparation with food sent home in backpacks, and the program was held in two locations during the summer and school months of September to November 2017.

1,227 Backpacks/8,073 Meals

In addition, a Pilot Supper Meal Program was held at the Lake Andes Public Library and Community Center that fed an additional 830 youth meals from June to August 2017. Overall there were 182 participants with the Bountiful Backpack program, and 1,227 “backpacks” sent home with students that provided 8,073 meals, according the BBP.

Yankton Healthy Meal 500pxThe BBP furthered the working relationship between the Yankton Sioux Tribe and the South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension. The program required coordination and involvement from the Yankton Sioux Tribe; the SDSU Extension staff; Andes Central Elementary, Marty Indian and Wagner Elementary school administrations; and the Lake Andes Public Library and city staff.

Samantha Dvorak is the Family and Community Health Extension Associate with SDSU Extension focusing on systems, policies and environmental change in these communities.

“All the partnerships were critical, especially the schools – which were great to work with. The local grocery stores were also very helpful to this project. I think the partnership with the tribe and SDSU was strengthened – communication-wise and just being able to successfully complete this project together,” said Dvorak.

Robert Flying Hawk, Chairman of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, noted this about the effort: “Unki-ye Wo-i-ha-bde Kin Ogna Oyate Zani Mani Pi Kte,” which translates in English to “Our vision: Our people will walk with good health.”

Following a Recipe

The BBP focuses not only on providing food to the youth and their families, but teaching youth how to follow a recipe, food safety and basic cooking skills.

Yankton Healthy Meal Prep 2 500px“The Bountiful Backpack project provided nutrition education to 4th, 5th and 6th graders through hands-on cooking demonstrations. During the lessons students would learn how to read nutrition facts on the food labels, how to read a recipe, and then make the recipe in class. At the end of the week students were provided the ingredients to take home and make the recipe with their families. Most recipes provided at least six to eight servings, providing a meal for an entire family versus just one kid,” said Dvorak.

The focus on the youth learning to prepare a recipe for their families encouraged the youth to participate and generated positive feedback from the community.

“A lot of parents commented – ‘My child wants to help me with dinner now and is more interested in how their food is made.’ Another comment made by many was that their kids are more apt to try something new because they helped make it,” said Dvorak.

Seeing the impact of the program on the youth who participated is something Michael Koupal knows from personal experience. He is a 4th grade teacher with the Wagner Community School.

“They See What’s Involved”

yankton1 500px“It’s fun to have the kids go and pour all the ingredients, read the labels, use the measuring cups. Every kid got to do something with making the recipes, not just eating it. They see what’s involved, and we talk to them about safety tips and the kids get support,” he said.

Koupal says that due to the economics of living in a rural area, it is much easier for kids to eat a bag of chips and drink soda. However, it is the small changes that make an impact on the kids.

“It’s simple stuff that can be made with a can of corn, black beans and salsa. The kids enjoyed it and they actually tried it. My own kids tried it and they can’t wait to make it again, such as the sweet potato pancakes. It gets them eating other foods,” said Koupal.

Dvorak says that the funding from First Nations and the Walmart Foundation allowed them to carry out the Bountiful Backpack Program in its entirety.

“The Bountiful Backpack program is such a great curriculum that can be taught without sending the food packages home with the youth, but that is a huge part of this curriculum to link the food demonstrations with the food packages sent home. Without the funding from First Nations Development Institute, we would not have been able to send the food home and have the impact that we did. The funding allowed us to reach so many more families than we would have been able to without it.”


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