CHICAGO—Just in time for Native American Heritage Month, the American Indian Center (AIC) has received a federal grant of over $1 million for its Indigenous food sovereignty project. The grant award of $1,006,755 distributed over the next three years comes from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) federal agency through its Social and Economic Development Strategies program.
The grant will fund AIC’s Food is Medicine project, whose goal is to achieve Indigenous food sovereignty for the Native American community in the Chicago metropolitan region. The project will increase access to fresh, healthy traditional Native foods and practices that honor Indigenous relationships to food.
Melodi Serna (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa/Oneida Nation), AIC Executive Director, says: “AIC has always responded to the needs of the community. Over the last two years of the pandemic, AIC distributed hundreds of food boxes and hot meals to the community. However, these contained mostly commodity food items, and community members expressed interest in accessing traditional Indigenous foods more beneficial to their health. This grant will allow us to expand our Food is Medicine program greatly, and impact many more community members.”
Chantay Moore (Navajo Nation), AIC Board Chair, states: “AIC is pleased to receive this funding for our Food is Medicine program. The grant will help AIC to support community members in decolonizing our diets and accessing fresh, nutrient-dense, whole foods that have nourished us for centuries, as well as reconnecting to traditional methods of cooking and other practices that honor ancestral ways of relating to food as a gift from the Creator. Because the majority of Native people in the U.S. now live in cities, it is critical to explore what food sovereignty looks like in urban areas for diverse, intertribal communities such as ours.”
A recent survey of Native American community members in the Chicago region conducted by AIC found that 88 percent of respondents had little to no access to fresh, healthy, traditional Indigenous foods.
Through the Food is Medicine project, AIC partners with Great Lakes tribal growers to distribute Indigenous food boxes to Native families and elders. AIC will also increase access to fresh,
healthy Indigenous foods by creating a rooftop garden at AIC and a community garden at Jefferson Park.
AIC will also empower community members to grow and cook Indigenous foods through Indigenous cooking workshops, Indigenous gardening workshops, and field trips to tribes and growers following Great Lakes seasonal rounds in harvesting, gathering, hunting, and other ancestral practices.