Shakopee Mdewakanton, American Heart Association Launch $1.6 million Campaign to Support Native Nutrition, Health Advocacy

Published March 1, 2019

New Policy Innovation Fund will provide grants and technical assistance for Native-led policy work in support of improved dietary health 

PRIOR LAKE, Minn. — The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) and American Heart Association (AHA) announced today a $1.6 million funding initiative to support Native American nutrition and health advocacy. The Policy Innovation Fund is a continuation of the SMSC and AHA’s partnership to promote Native-led dietary health advocacy, which first began in 2015. First Nations Development Institute and the American Indian Cancer Foundation will partner with the SMSC and AHA to administer grants and provide technical assistance.

“Native Americans are experiencing extreme health disparities, making them twice as likely as the rest of the U.S. population to have nutrition-related health problems,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “We are proud to deepen our partnership with the SMSC to address this health crisis.”

The Policy Innovation Fund has been developed to directly support grantmaking for Native nutrition and health policy work. Other elements of the campaign include leadership development, technical assistance and movement-building activities to support the growing nutrition and health movement in Indian Country.

“Until now there have been scarce funds available for Native-focused advocacy efforts addressing nutrition and health policy and community change, yet such efforts are crucial for improving the health of Native communities,” said SMSC Chairman Charles R. Vig. “Together, the American Heart Association and our tribe are giving Native American activists the important additional resources they need to work on improved policies relating to food access, dietary health and wellbeing.”

First Nations Development Institute, a nonprofit organization that strengthens Native American economies to support healthy Native communities, will administer the Policy Innovation Fund’s grantmaking. It will conduct two national solicitations for grant proposals, the first to be issued in March 2019. Grants ranging from $75,000 to $100,000 will be awarded through a competitive process to tribes and Native-led organizations to support innovative projects designed to improve nutrition and health policy systems at the tribal, local, state and national levels.

“We are excited to partner with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the American Heart Association to bring critical resources to Native advocacy and policy efforts,” said Michael E. Roberts, First Nations president & CEO. “Policy and advocacy efforts by Native communities remain critical to advancing food sovereignty in those communities.”

To support the success of Native grantees and advocates, the American Indian Cancer Foundation (AICAF), a Native-governed nonprofit organization, will provide technical assistance. This will include regular consultations with grantees, trainings, onsite visits and support for grantee convening and planning activities.

“Community-driven policy decisions are critical as Native communities seek to improve the health of their people,” said Kris Rhodes, chief executive officer of AICAF. “Building the capacity of these communities to plan and implement innovative policies will help the Fertile Ground Campaign make incredible strides in Indian Country.”

The SMSC is providing funding from its Seeds of Native Health campaign, a $10 million philanthropic effort to improve Native American nutrition and food access.

“Over the past four years, our tribe and the AHA have worked hand-in-hand to bring new attention and resources to solve the dietary health crisis in Native communities,” said Jesse Chase, SMSC Community Member and chair of Seeds of Native Health. “We’re excited to continue collaborating and give grassroots change agents in Indian Country new tools and encouragement to improve the health of their communities.”

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