We are very proud of our Intertribal Agriculture Council colleague – IAC American Indian Foods (AIF) program director, Lottie Redhouse, and her involvement with the Natural Products Expo: Spark Change.
Her panel discussion was titled: Spark Change with Nutrition. The session was moderated by Julie Ward, a plant-based nutritionist and ACE Certified Health Coach. Redhouse joined Daena Rexho – KeHE Distributors as well as Sapna Punjabi-Gupta – beSPICED to talk about healthy food access, agricultural production, barriers, and opportunities.
“It's essential that everyone has access to nutritious foods and healthy products. As an industry, we have the ability and the responsibility to ensure that consumers everywhere have access to and can afford foods that are delicious and nutrient-dense,” stated conference materials.
“Together, we can ensure that diverse entrepreneurs and brands have the support and market demand to manufacture healthy foods. We can also enlist a vast array of creative platforms and tools to ensure we meet consumers where they are with new products and nutrition education.”
Here are some session highlights:
“Access to food has been difficult for Native American communities, especially with COVID,” Redhouse said, noting the IAC Resiliency through Agriculture theme that has been used in our organization’s webinars and other communications throughout the year, as well as the upcoming Virtual Conference December 7-10.
What does nutrition mean to each of you?
It’s a, “Strong connection to seasons and nature,” said Sapna Punjabi-Gupta. “We are a microcosm of the macrocosm of the environment.”
Daena Rexho said, “Nutrition is a simple outlook . . . Simple, wholesome ingredients – getting protein through animals and plants and being mindful of what I am putting into my body . . . On a personal level, it ties back to how you grew up. What type of household? Did they use local produce? It’s difficult to change some of those habits we were instilled with when we were young.”
Redhouse said, “Ch’iyaan Yá’á’da’teeh hi’gii means ‘good food’ in the Navajo language. Food is a living being. Food plays a tremendous role and is regarded as good medicine. It feeds us spiritually, physically and mentally.”
What are the biggest barriers to food access?
Through the lens of representing all federally recognized tribes in the U.S., Redhouse said, “The pandemic has revealed inefficiencies in the U.S. supply chain that Native American communities had already been aware of and knew existed. And, while many families experienced food insecurity for the first time as COVID restrictions were put in place, Native communities that are often characterized as food deserts, were positioned in even more difficult and dire situations.”
“Nonetheless, there has been increased resiliency in Native American and Alaskan Native communities that have increased their food ways and reconnected to their ancestral food ways through agricultural efforts,” Redhouse went on to explain. “These producers and organizations like IAC are seeking innovative ways to continue to feed Native communities because we, Native American Nations, cannot be truly sovereign unless we can feed ourselves.”
“Pricing natural and organic can be more expensive. There are certain things we can do in terms of education . . . enhancing from brand side and supplier side,” noted Rexho, adding, we need to offer more promotions, better prices and address low income and marginalized communities – especially in the areas of lack of transportation and access to quality stores. It’s imperative, she said, to work, “together to bring food into rural areas – that is what is going to impact overall health.”
Punjabi-Gupta pointed out our collective over-dependence for food on large corporations, “COVID, in a positive way, has made a lot of people get back in their kitchens and back to cooking. There’s a trend of fresh food consumption getting higher.”
Redhouse gave an overview on how the IAC AIF program is helping Native producers gain a stronger share of the market through three facets – an export program, the Native Food Connection (domestic and specialty) as well as the AIF Made/Produced by Native American Indians Trademark.”
“The AIF program works with IAC programs to increase Native producers’ key marketing concepts, through trade shows, trade missions and brand awareness globally. It’s an all hands-on-deck effort during COVID-19,” Redhouse explained. “This effort includes development of the Resiliency through Agriculture initiative exploring topics related to IAC mission areas.”
Check out the ongoing effort by IAC AIF to build an already expansive Native producer directory at: www.indianagfoods.org
Check out Natural Products Expo information at: