Sustainability (and such)

Food and independence at the tribal level

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on July 15, 2012

(Part of the continuing Food 2.0 series)

One of the brightest success stories about American food security comes from the Sovereign Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and I’m honored to be part of that tribe’s upcoming Food Sovereignty Workshop.  I already love how this program combines the best of so many public campaigns, such as buying locally, supporting small businesses, and increasing sustainability efforts while connecting with the land.

Simply, the Oneida Community Integrated Food Systems works to integrate “local food and resources, improve the community’s quality of food, educate the people of diet-related health risks, increase employment and youth opportunities, and assist in bringing all people closer together”.  This replicable model centers on recovering food systems that don’t destroy social and natural communities with specifics such as:  visioning and planning programs; importance of cultural considerations; “how-to” operate canneries and raise poultry and (Black Angus) cattle; plus garden and greenhouse production.  In addition to this nuts-and-bolts approach, the Oneida tribe considers food an important part of a community that regularly celebrates, harvests, and gives thanks.

Want second helpings?  You can find more info via social media that dovetails with your personal interests.  For instance, the #SahelCrisis Twitter group spotlights an ongoing African drought and famine for millions who live on what they can grow.  Within the gender lens, there are increasing links between women’s economic opportunity and access to safe, affordable food. And technology is an important tool to assess a situation before interceding:  at a global level, food security is often analyzed using VAM (Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping) methods that include GIS, satellite imagery, and Personal Digital Assistants. And, of course, you can always tie sustainability and food security to other social justice issues of poverty, economics, trade, inequality, public policy, and immigration.

While my research has focused on food security within American Indian tribal colleges, such actions are part of the larger findings about culture and sustainability.  The 2008 economic and financial crisis caused an eruption of hunger within this country that continues to escalate for nearly 49 million people, which is 1 in 6 of the U.S. population and more than 1 in five children. It’s a part of our community that needs more research, corporate involvement, and volunteers.  To that end, I’ll post more in early August after the workshop and please let me know if you’d like to join!

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