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Addressing Native American Health, Food Sovereignty & Food Security through Food Partnerships

Our food bank seeks to collaborate with MN Native American communities to improve health outcomes through culturally appropriate foods.

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Our User Experience Map is also included as an attachment below.

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

This project will bring healthy, Native foods to food-insecure Native American participants with diabetes. We seek to improve outcomes related to health, food security and other areas.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

Second Harvest Heartland works in MN-U.S.A. to end hunger through community partnerships.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

This project is an extension of current projects we are implementing with health care partners. For example, we are currently providing healthy food boxes and education to food-insecure patients with diabetes and heart disease, and evaluating outcomes. Many of these patients are Somali-American.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

This project seeks to solve issues related to Native American food insecurity and high rates of diabetes. The USDA notes that 23% of Native people are food insecure, and Native people are 2.3 times as likely as Whites to have diabetes.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

1. Identify community partners & gain commitments to collaborate. 2. Refine program elements based on partner inputs; e.g., content of food boxes and educational materials based on feedback from Native American chefs, farmers and dieticians. 3. Implement a pilot project with 1 clinic or classroom-based program, likely serving up to 50 individuals in total. 4. Evaluate results; including client satisfaction and health outcomes. 5. Bring project to scale and create financial sustainability.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

Our FOODRx team will implement this project. The team includes a program manager, registered dietician, research coordinator and other individuals. We will likely partner with clinics, diabetes educators, dieticians, chefs, farmers, Native American organizations and academic researchers.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Financial Business Model

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Collaborate with others in the sector

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

In similar projects, we are currently evaluating the impact of healthy food and education on health, food security and self-care outcomes among people with diabetes or heart disease. We are also seeking to determine ROI on the interventions, with the long-term goal of making the provision of healthy food a billable/reimbursable service, much like a prescription for medicine. In collaboration with our partners, we will create a similar evaluation plan for this project.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

During this phase, we have gained a better understanding of how our potential clients learn best, and make long-term changes to their health and food-related behavior. Group, community and social support (rather than individual participation) will assist our clients best. Group-oriented sequences within community settings, with group goal setting, will be utilized in our project.

(Optional) What are some of your still unanswered questions or concerns about this idea?

We are still seeking information about: -Most effective ways to identify appropriate clients (Native Americans who are food insecure & diabetic). -Shelf-stable, culturally appropriate foods that we can include in the program, particularly those grown locally and with traditional Native practices that promote food sovereignty. -Effective passive education materials that resonate with the Native American community; e.g., materials that reflect the connection between earth, food and body.

Second Harvest Heartland is a major regional food bank serving 59 counties in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.  In the past 2 years, our organization has devoted increasing amounts of attention and resources to the interplay between food and health. We launched our FOODRx initiative in 2016.  Currently, FOODRx is evaluating the impact of healthy foods on low-income populations with chronic diseases, such as diabetes.  Our organization is now looking to extend this work by collaborating with local Native American communities to address food insecurity, healthy food access and chronic health concerns.  We have in place a framework for work such as this, and our Native community partners will drive conversations and decision making about program implementation and use of resources.  

Minneapolis is home to one of the largest urban Native American populations in the United States.  On the whole, the population is disproportionately impacted by health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.  Our partners have identified an opportunity to cooperatively address food insecurity, lack of access to healthy foods and to improve health outcomes for community members.  Our current FOODRx framework provides an opportunity for the partners to test and evaluate various community-driven approaches to this work.

Explain your idea

Our idea is to expand our FOODRx model in a manner that helps Native American communities address issues related to health, food insecurity and food access in a community-driven, client-centered and culturally affirming manner. For example, in partnership with a health care provider, we have recently implemented a pilot program in which food insecure and low-income diabetic patients receive culturally- and disease-appropriate food boxes and education to complement their standard of care. We have implemented a customized approach to this program that incorporates Somali and Hispanic foods and recipes. Building upon these efforts, we have identified an opportunity to assist Native American communities with similar activities, to include food interventions, research and/or program evaluation. Doing so will help solve several community concerns and problems. Regarding peace, this project has potential to help reconcile past trauma related to the loss of food sovereignty and food systems due to colonization. It also addresses prosperity by assisting Native American people to improve their food security and health, which are associated with improved economic status and outcomes. In terms of planet, this project intends to utilize the expertise and resources of local chefs, nutrition experts, food growers to create sustainable, and culturally affirming eating patterns that affirm Native connections to the land. Currently, Second Harvest Heartland serves Native American people through our food banking activities, through which we distribute donated food to food pantries and meal programs that serve this population. While increasing amounts of this food consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, much of the food we distribute is not particular to the Native population and its chronic disease management needs (e.g., diabetes). Expansion of the FOODRx program will allow us to refine and test our approach to food distribution to Native communities, and allow us to help organizations looking to better implement chronic disease management for their Native patients. Data supports the need to conduct this work. A recent newsletter by Notah Begay III Foundation notes that, "If nothing changes, half of all Native American children are at risk for being a type 2 diabetic, which decreases their life expectancy by 27 years." Second Harvest Heartland learned of many issues such as these at the Native American Nutrition Conference held in Minneapolis in September 2016. Second Harvest Heartland also sees an opportunity for this program to be replicated with indigenous populations across the globe whose food systems have been impacted by colonization, and are food insecure and suffering from the consequential negative health outcomes. Our framework has potential to assist other food banks and hunger relief organizations to utilize their resources and infrastructure in ways that complement the efforts of indigenous peoples.

Who Benefits?

The primary beneficiaries of this program will be Native American participants. They will benefit from having access to culturally and disease appropriate foods that enhance their health, economic outcomes and connections to their cultural values. In addition, this project provides an opportunity to conduct research and program evaluation to add to the evidence base that helps to advocate for pro-Native public food policy changes. The project will help add to the written body of knowledge in the areas of Native health equity and food sovereignty. Though our work will be focused locally, results will be shared elsewhere. As a nonprofit food bank, Second Harvest Heartland will benefit by learning more about the specific needs of Native American populations, so that we may serve them more effectively. By being collaborative partners with Native American-led coalitions, groups and organizations, we can continue to build trust with Native & other communities across our service area

How is your idea unique?

Our idea is unique because to our knowledge, no program exists that offers food boxes (which include food, recipes and passive disease management education) to address the specific health and cultural concerns of low-income Native American people who are food insecure. A unique advantage of our approach is that we already have an operational framework in place that has been vetted, tested and proven successful. We are looking to extend it to serve an additional community to add breadth to our efforts, and to develop and enhance our relationship with the currently underserved Native American community. In this manner, FOODRx will serve as a bridge to additional collaboration. This program will complement the activities of Seeds of Native Health and the University of Minnesota's Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute. Our activities will extend this work, and provide an opportunity to test and evaluate strategies that affirm these organizations' prior learning.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.
  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Tell us more about you

Second Harvest Heartland is a nonprofit organization with the mission of ending hunger through community partnerships. We serve hungry individuals in 59 counties in the U.S. states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. In summary, the project described here will be a program for Second Harvest Heartland. It tackles the problem of getting additional healthy food to food insecure individuals who are also trying to manage diet-related chronic diseases. It addresses this problem by working collaboratively with the Native American community to identify and source culturally appropriate foods, and to develop menus and education designed for the nutritional needs of low-income, Native American people. The primary goal is to help improve health outcomes among those participating in the program, with additional potential to also improve their financial wellbeing. Our approach will be to operate the program in a culturally affirming and sustainable way, that takes into account the past trauma experienced by Native American community members, and the close relationship the Native population has with the earth and the food it provides. The program has intersections with peace, prosperity, and planet. The program proposed here is an expansion of our current FOODRx program, and will be fully integrated into our ongoing program. As part of our work in the next 12 months, we will solidify partnerships and collaborative efforts with Native-led organizations and initiatives that are seeking to improve food security and health outcomes for Native people.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.
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Attachments (2)

Second Harvest Heartand User Experience 5-2017.pdf

This document serves as the User Experience Map for our proposed project.

FoodRx Visual_FINAL.pdf

This document describes the intersection between hunger and health, for food insecure individuals served by Second Harvest Heartland in Minnesota and western Wisconsin (U.S.A.)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Jeff,

I hope you are having a nice long weekend break.

There is an idea that was submitted earlier on this challenge that might interest you called Indigenous Wisdom & Modern Innovations: Bridging Divides to Transform the World submitted by Karen which mentions the Healthy Native Communities Fellowship curriculum.

Photo of Jeff

Wonderful!  Thank you very much, Kate!

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