Ponca Pork Project to Provide for the Elderly and Help Youth

First Nations Development Institute, in association with AARP Foundation, is working to eliminate food insecurity among American Indian senior citizens. With support from the foundation, First Nations recently awarded grants of $25,000 each to four tribal projects that will go far toward meeting that goal. By way of alliteration, one of those efforts is the “Ponca Pork Project.”

With help from the First Nations grant, the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma will raise natural pork and provide it to tribal elders through its local food-distribution program and senior citizen center. The tribe will provide land for the effort and manage the venture.

The pork will be raised free of antibiotics, hormones or other growth aids. According to the tribe, the goal is to ensure that its elders not only have access to a sufficient amount of food, but that they also begin to adopt healthier diets, including the natural pork.

Further, the tribe will involve its youth in the project – from caring for the pigs to helping with the food- distribution process – as a way of introducing them to the world of animal agriculture. In many tribes across the U.S., traditional methods of raising livestock or growing crops have diminished significantly, which has helped erode many of the food- and agriculture-related cornerstones and customs of tribal culture. Getting youth engaged in the process will help revitalize the tribe’s connection to the land and agriculture.

“First Nations is happy to support this effort by the Ponca Tribe,” said First Nations President Michael Roberts. “Eliminating food insecurity is a critically important issue for many Native communities. Our partnership with AARP Foundation will support the development or expansion of locally controlled and locally based food systems while providing for senior members of Indian communities.”

National statistics document that Native Americans continue to experience high rates of poverty, which contributes to significant food insecurity. According to the most recent American Community Survey, about 26% of American Indians live at or below the poverty line. The same survey indicates that roughly 12% of all Native Americans living in poverty are age 55 and older. Other studies conducted by the National Resource Center on Native American Aging note that Native American seniors suffer from higher rates of obesity, diabetes and other negative health indicators when compared to other senior
groups in the United States.

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