— Today nearly 150 community members, educators, nutritionists, elders and youth gathered for the Notah Begay III (NB3) Foundation
’s second annual Healthy Beverage Summit
. Dialogue centered on making healthier choices by drinking more water and less sugary-sweetened beverages specifically for Native youth and tribal communities across the country.
“The Healthy Beverage Summit is an empowering and inspiring event. It’s a place where health and wellness advocates come together to share ideas, stories and tips on how to promote healthy drinking alternatives for Native youth,” said NB3 Foundation President and CEO Justin Kii Huenemann. “We are also honored and fortunate to have Dr. Marion Nestle as this year’s keynote speaker. Her advocacy against soda giants and healthier foods and drinks in schools is certainly an inspiration for tribal communities.”
Author of several books that explore issues like the effects of food production on dietary intake, food safety and access to food and nutrition, Dr. Nestle’s keynote speech addressed the health problems of Native Americans related to diet and why advocacy to prevent them can be so effective.
“It’s totally inspiring to hear about all the ways Native American groups are taking action to promote healthier diets for their communities,” said Dr. Nestle. “Avoiding sugary drinks is the first line of defense against weight gain and type 2 diabetes. They contain sugars but nothing else of nutritional value. And everyone would be better off keeping added sugars to a minimum.”
is a consumer advocate, nutritionist, award-winning author and academic who specializes in the politics of food and dietary choice. Dr. Nestle’s research examines scientific, economic, and social influences on food choice and obesity, with an emphasis on the influence of food industry marketing.
“I enjoyed hearing about the connection Dr. Nestle made between food, sugar-sweetened beverages and politics. Politics impact many issues within our reservations and effects communities and tribal people too,” said Gloria Begay, Program Director for the Dine Food Sovereignty Alliance. “I’m glad the Foundation brought in a high profile speaker who is knowledgeable. It helps with our outreach to our tribal people.”
Other Summit speakers and sessions included Takayla Lightfield from the American Indian Cancer Foundation who presented on their Healthy Beverage Toolkit and provided participants with examples on how policies can be initiated and implemented in tribal communities. Dr. Christina Hecht with the University of California’s Nutrition Policy Institute shared strategies and tactics to encourage and motivate Native communities to drink more water and less sugary beverages. Valerie Segrest, a nutrition educator specializing in local and traditional foods, talked about culturally relevant beverages and how to design an ancestral beverage campaign.
“This gathering of people doing similar work is a reminder that the solutions to helping our people make healthier choices rests in our hands. We have the background and knowledge,” said Summit participant, Duane Yazzie who is a physical education teacher with the Window Rock School District in Arizona. “Exercising our true sovereignty in what we’re eating, drinking, ingesting and teaching our youth is necessary to our survival.”
The Healthy Beverage Summit is part of NB3 Foundation’s Water First!
initiative which supports tribes and organizations through modest grants to promote drinking clean water and reducing unnecessary sugary-sweetened beverages.
Some Water First! grantees are making tremendous strides within their respective communities. For example, the Star School serving Navajo Nation has outfitted an old school bus with a water filtration system and now students are taking it to different communities across the reservation to test the water quality. Another grantee, the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project in Zuni Pueblo, created a sugar-free zone at their community concession stands. They now only serve water.
“All too often we hear in our tribal communities that soda and other sugary beverages is more accessible than clean drinking water,” added Huenemann. “The individuals that attend this Summit work in the those communities and are committed to the same mission of helping Native youth live healthier lives.