First Nations Receives $175,000 Grant from Otto Bremer Trust to Shift Native Food Economies in Minnesota & North Dakota

Sam Strong, Director of the Red Lake Economic Development and Planning Department, loads a truck of plants from the Wozupi Tribal Gardens to take back to the Red Lake Nation to plant in Nitaawigitoon Gitigaan (community garden).

Published December 7, 2018

LONGMONT, Colo. — First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has received a grant of $175,000 over two years from the Otto Bremer Trust.  First Nations will use the grant for its “Changing Native Food Economies in Minnesota and North Dakota” project.

Under the grant, First Nations will select and support three Native American programs in Minnesota and/or North Dakota to help them reclaim control of their community food systems as a means for creating strong, diverse and resilient Native economies. These Native groups (tribes, Native-controlled nonprofit organizations, or Native community groups) will build community connections and identify market opportunities that will, in the long term, reduce economic leakage from local food systems and, in so doing, strengthen tribal sovereignty. Selected groups will build on already-conducted community food assessments that identified related assets and set the stage for this work.

For its grassroots partners, First Nations will provide technical assistance and training that will build their capacity; financial resources that will allow them to undertake a community-driven, collaborative and participatory process that will examine the untapped economic potential of their local food system; and peer networking that will allow them to form a community of practice.

By triangulating food sources/production, food vendors, and consumer (institutional and individual) demand, partners will explore the issue of economic leakage related to the food economy, identify resources, and begin to build connections to local market opportunities – bolstering their communities economically, socially and culturally. Currently, due to a lack of local food purchasing outlets, millions of dollars in economic purchasing power cycle out of Native economies, benefiting border towns and distant communities instead of the Native communities themselves.

For Native communities, increasing control of the community food system provides opportunities to create jobs and small businesses, increases access to locally-produced and healthier foods, helps family food dollars go farther, and reinforces tribal food traditions.

“For Native food economies, entrepreneurs are a critical piece of the Native-controlled food system,” noted A-dae Romero-Briones, First Nations’ Director of Programs – Native Agriculture and Food Systems. “Creating spaces for the sale of foods in the community not only captures dollars for that community, but allows the community to multiply that dollar through recirculation. Indigenous communities have always been excellent at redistributing food, so this project is aimed at formalizing some of those existing channels into retail markets. This is a small but important part of food-system control.”

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