Interior Department Advances Health and Nutrition Efforts Across Indian Country

Indigenous Food Hubs will enhance culturally based healthy nutrition for Indian Affairs programs

WASHINGTON (September 27, 2022) — The Department of the Interior today announced that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) will create Indigenous Food Hubs for BIE-operated schools and BIA-operated detention centers to help source Indigenous foods, enhance culturally based healthy nutrition education and boost training for healthy and culturally appropriate food preparation.

The announcement was made as part of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which aims to galvanize the public and private sectors to comprehensively address the intersections of food, hunger, nutrition and health to drive toward a goal of ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity.

“Food is an integral cornerstone of Indigenous communities – it represents our connection to the Earth and the customs that have been passed down through generations. Yet Indigenous communities face historically high rates of food insecurity and often lack access to affordable and healthy foods,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “The Biden-Harris administration is committed to improving food access and affordability across Indian Country, while also relying on Indigenous knowledge to ensure Native communities receive culturally appropriate healthy nutrition education.”

“Indigenous food is about more than just nutrition. Food is an important part of Native cultures, traditions, history and community,” said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. “The Indigenous Food Hubs will work to provide healthier food to Indigenous communities and help to repair the damage done to Indigenous foodways by the harmful policies of the past, including colonization, relocation and assimilation of Tribal communities.”

For the first time, a nutritionist will be hired to support the BIE and BIA in developing and implementing culturally appropriate nutrition and training standards that draw from Indigenous knowledge. Special efforts will be made to identify and connect Native venders and producers, as well as community-based systems such as Tribal food sovereignty and health programs.

The initiative will utilize Indigenous Knowledge to develop holistic approaches to support Native Food Sovereignty movements incorporating culture, social determinants of health, food, nutrition, land management and regenerative agriculture. The initiative will include pilot hubs at four BIE schools and four BIA detention centers to source foods from Native producers and venders, provide training for cooks, and develop educational materials.