Food Boxes Incorporate Indigenous Foods

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As the holidays draw nearer, families in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community are receiving much-needed food supplies from Community departments. The SRPMIC Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, along with other Community departments, hosted a food distribution activity at the SRPMIC Food Bank on November 15. 

At the tribal food box distribution, Community members had a chance to interact with SRPMIC staff from the WIC and Diabetes Prevention Services and the University of Arizona on food nutrition and simple meal preparation tips.

Sixty-one tribal food boxes were distributed. Each box included traditional Indigenous staples such as tepary beans, Navajo pinto beans, yellow corn meal, raw honey, green chiles, diced tomatoes and whole-kernel corn. 

“The event was a collaboration between St. Mary’s Food Bank, the River People Health Center Nutrition Services, the Public Health Diabetes Prevention Program, the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension program and WIC,” said supervisor Margaret Fisher of Health & Human Services–WIC Community Health & Nutrition. 

Fisher said the items were not chosen at random; they all serve an important purpose that ties back to traditional diets of Indigenous people. The items selected also were based on what is seasonal. Each box contained at least seven food items. 

“We help the Community learn about healthy foods and try delicious food samples that are based on traditionally known foods,” said Fisher, who added that it is about building cultural knowledge about Indigenous ingredients. 

“The idea is for Community members to come out and meet program staff and listen to what we have to offer, like what we do and how nutritional foods are beneficial to them,” said Fisher. 

Informational booths also were set up, but the big takeaway was the food boxes and the variety of Indigenous foods for Community members to take home. “This is the second time we have done this, and we plan to host more [food distribution events] in the Community. We have been doing this for about five years, and it has grown in [terms of] the number of partners we have today,” said Fisher. 

Additionally, informational material was handed out along with promotional items, including a QR code people can scan to access a webpage with additional information on healthy recipes and Indigenous ingredients. 

For those who were not able to attend the November food box distribution, Community members will have future opportunities to attend similar events next year, on February 14, April 11 and July 7, 2023. 

Eventually, the goal is for the SRPMIC Food Bank to resupply tribal food boxes on the first Tuesday of each month as a way to regularly provide nutritious ingredients to the Community. 

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