Native Youth Speak about Food 4 Families

In 2020, the youth of Indian Country were challenged when food security grew as a pressing concern nationally resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. To address the changes that came with this year, the Food 4 Families Initiative (F4F) took shape thanks to the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) and partners Farm Aid, Indian Land Tenure Foundation, and First Nations Development Institute. 


F4F was created for Native youth in 4H and FFA who raised animals to be shown at live auctions. These livestock shows were ultimately cancelled due to COVID-19 and marketing show animals became increasingly difficult. The F4F’s coupon covers the livestock processing fees for the livestock intended for show so that youth can contribute to their community food system. 


More than 55 youth wrote in, or submitted videos, explaining the impact their involvement with IAC, 4H or FFA, and their tribe had on them and their ability to feed people in their communities. The initiative gave youth an opportunity to really dive into their role within the processes of their food system. As a result, meat from the youth’s animals was circulated in many ways in their community. 


Subsequently, youth made the following choices as part of the program:

  • 61 percent chose to sell their meat to local businesses and families

  • 18 percent chose to donate the meat to elders, foodbanks, or community organizations 

  • 21 percent chose to keep the meat to feed their own families

Throughout this initiative, IAC is taking note of the youth and all the wonderful work they are doing to support their community through food and agriculture. One notable youth, Madison Manuelito (Navajo, age 15) said, “We live in a food desert. It is not easy for our Navajo people on the reservation to get fresh, healthy food because of the long distances to grocery stores. By raising cattle and selling our beef locally, I hope to help in this unmet area.” 


Having already taken steps to expand her operation with the help of her sister, Madison looks forward to being a Navajo woman cattle rancher and working to increase her community’s access to local meat. 


Another great youth, Rhett Michael (Blackfeet, 15), chose to donate the proceeds of his steer to F.A.S.T. Blackfeet, an organization that promotes food security and sovereignty for the Blackfeet Nation. IAC and partners are excited to see the impact of F4F as it eases the financial burden of processing and offers youth a chance to focus on their local food supply.


Now more than ever this is apparent, according to Trace Fletcher (Colville, 16), “It has been scary to see the shelves bare at my grocery store and then when they do get the food on the shelves, it is more expensive than before because of limited supplies! This has helped me to understand that it is important for me to help grow food for my family and people in my community.” 


IAC hopes to continue the work being done and to administer this initiative to keep the conversation going for Native youth in the food and agriculture industry. 


Guidelines: Applicants must be a Native youth participating in a 4-H or FFA group serving Indian Country or showing on their own in Indian Country.  Animals must have been purchased/or raised for sale in an established livestock show cancelled due to the COVID-19 Crisis.

Application form is here: https://www.tfaforms.com/4844430

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