On September 12, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members were invited to pick up a “tribal food box” at the Food Bank, donated by St. Mary’s Food Bank and packed with traditional Native ingredients.
The event was a partnership between the Food Bank and the SRPMIC WIC program. About 100 attendees picked up a box, including nine WIC clients.
Inside the food boxes were chicken, Anasazi beans, Navajo Pride flour, corn, tomato sauce and Pilkan Haak Chu’i (Fine-Grind Parched Pima Club Wheat Pinole) from Ramona Farms.
Community Health and Nutrition Supervisor Margaret Fisher, MS, RDN, CDCES, said that tribal food boxes can help Native people overcome health disparities.
“Studies are showing that when people include traditional foods in their eating habits, they tend to consume more nutrients and less calories as well as [gain] a strengthened cultural capacity and [improve their] overall well-being,” said Fisher.
Fisher said that culture especially matters in communications about food, and that the boxes provide a link to local food systems and build trust in the Community.
“Cultural understanding can build trust,” said Fisher. “Food is a big part of culture. SRPMIC WIC and program partners taking the time to learn more about the Indigenous foods of importance to those we serve will help build trust.”
The event also offered insights for providing culturally relevant cooking advice.
The University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension office was on-site to give out free samples of dishes made from the ingredients in the boxes.
Other programs participating at the event were SRPMIC Diabetes Prevention Services and Child Find, a component of the AZ FIND initiative, who were on hand to help caregivers prepare children age 5 and under for preschool.
Fisher said that WIC provides foods that are good for “growing bodies,” connects Community members to nutrition resources, and provides healthy meal and snack ideas.