One of First Nations Development Institute’s grantees, White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP) on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, recently completed a great new guide for establishing farm-to-school programs in Native communities. The publication is titled Indigenous Farm-to-School Programs: A Guide for Creating a Farm-to-School Program in an Indigenous Community.
Founded in 1989, WELRP is a nonprofit, multi-issue Native American organization. It has long recognized the overwhelmingly critical food state on the White Earth Reservation. After efforts to improve the lives of its youth with various gardening and cultural projects, it decided to implement the farm-to-school program. It was introduced at a time when 35% of the adult population of the White Earth community was suffering from Type 2 diabetes. The children also were facing unprecedented health risks, with Indian Health Services recording a 70% increase in childhood diabetes and obesity.
The focus of the proposed farm-to-school program was the Pine Point Elementary School, where 89% of the students qualified for free meals through the federal school breakfast and lunch program, and another 8.5 % qualified for reduced-price meals. Since the program launched, two other schools have been added – the Nay Tah Waush Charter School and the Circle of Life Academy.
WELRP worked with more than 50 growers from its own community and others close by, and has served more than 60 foods (naturally or organically grown, with no known use of pesticides). These include bison, wild rice in various forms, fresh berries and squash, which are just some of the foods that came from the traditional diet of the Anishinaabe people. WELRP’s goals in the project were to improve the health of youngsters while helping revitalize White Earth’s local economy and reintroduce Anishinaabe food traditions and practices.
Our congratulations to WELRP for completing this important project!
By Raymond Foxworth, Senior Program Officer