Minneapolis – Bison Pastrami is not a general school lunch fare, but a crowd favorite at a preschool in Minneapolis.
Fawn Youngbear-Tibbetts – The seemingly ever-present coordinator of indigenous food on the Wicoie Nandagikendan Early Childhood Urban Immersion Project – is often seen in the kitchen offering homemade goodies like tweaking recipes or flour-free black-bean brownies.
Youngbear-Tibets, a longtime Minneapolis resident and member of the White Earth band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, has worked to bring traditional recipes to the 178 children who joined Wico, who are taught a few hours each day in Dakota and Ojibwe. . The dishes, he said, not only help American students and their families connect with their culture, but also strengthen their nutrition.
“A part of it is getting their palate [used to] Eat traditional food, so they want it, ”he said. “Our kids are used to eating all these processed foods – snacks, sugar.” He hopes that students will develop a taste for healthy food that they will carry throughout their lives.
Serving Wicoie Nandagikendan throughout breakfast, lunch and snacks, Youngbear-Tibbetts includes large game meats such as sweet potatoes, fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, fish and bison, which are extremely low in fat. Most recently, he distributed 300 300 bison grants to students’ families.
Nearly half of Native American children are overweight or obese, partly due to a lack of access to healthy foods, Indian health service researchers found in a 2017 study.
A 2018 report from the First Nations Development Institute found that “for Native American children, their school or school-related meals may be the most reliable, consistent and nutritious food they receive,” which Youngbear-Tibetans found to be true.
Many Minneapolis school children come from severely low-income families who do not have a car or cannot go to the grocery store. They often rely on convenience stores for shopping. “Many of our kids only eat at school, so it’s really important to make sure we’re serving the most nutritious food,” said Youngbear-Tibets.
When money is tight, he adds, “people tend to buy the most calories with their dollars.”
“It’s potato chips, it’s ramen, it’s highly processed food, because there are more calories and it’s cheaper to buy,” he said.
Youngber-Tibets said many urban American Indian families have never learned to cook Indigenous food. He taught the students how to harvest wild rice and fish. He showed their family how to smoke and make fillet fish.
“We have people of multiple generations and some families who are also deprived of knowing how to clean fish or how to cook deer meat,” he said.
Youngberry-Tibetans grew up near Lich Lake, between the Grand Rapids and the town of Bemidji in Minnesota, where his father taught him to catch berries and greens, butcher deer and walai (a freshwater fish common in North America) and white fish.
At the age of 10, he said, he could butcher a deer or bury a fish himself. At age 12, Youngbear-Tibetans began cooking dinner for his family, partly because “you don’t have to cook if you cook.”
After her mother became ill, she began to cook regularly in high school.
“When he was diagnosed with diabetes, I went to his nutrition class with him,” said Youngbear-Tibets. “So how I eat and how I make food has really changed.”
Youngber-Tibetans have cooked many recipes that have served students most of his life, including turkey, bison, and venison, walleye, and meatballs made from wild rice. Sometimes he replaces native ingredients for the food his students have already enjoyed. For example, he made tacos with blue corn tortillas and bison instead of flour tortillas and beef.
He also teaches his students how to include city-grown foods such as crab and mulberry in their diet.
According to federal data, Native Americans are about three times more likely to develop diabetes and 50% more likely to develop heart disease than non-Hispanic white Americans.
Dr. Mitchell Lakomb, a family physician at the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis, a community health clinic, says his patients regularly experience this problem.
“I can tell people how to eat healthy, but if they can’t afford it or get it or get those drugs or those foods, it doesn’t matter,” LaCombe said.
“The traditional diet feels like a better diet,” Lakumb said. “Incorporating a Western-style diet is when things start to get sour. Especially when you get into fast food and convenience foods that taste good.”
Ariel Gans and Katherine Haggins are undergraduate students in the Washington, DC program at the Middle School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
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