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Native Roots

By Kibbe Conti, Registered Dietician
Tribal Connections
Photo of Dietician, Kibbe Conti

Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool for First Nations – A Review

Have ever wanted to better understand the changing health trends of Indian people? If so, then you might begin by gaining a better understanding of the dramatic changes in Native food systems that have occurred over the last 200 years. Traditional food systems such as hunting, fishing and gathering have declined and there has been an increased reliance on purchased foods and Federal food program commodities. This change in the food system has had devastating effects on the health of Native peoples.

One document I recently encountered provides a wealth of good information about past and present food systems in Indian Country, and shares examples of projects that are reclaiming local food systems and revitalizing traditions associated with agriculture. The stories shared give hope to the possibility of improving the health of our communities by restoring traditional food systems. The First Nations Development Institute ( based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, has developed the "Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool" as a part of its Initiative for Native Agriculture and Food Systems. This document not only has a valuable assessment tool to help community members understand the food needs, assets and resources in their community, but the document also includes a valuable discussion of the things that have impacted native food systems over the years and outlines efforts made across Indian Country to restore food sovereignty.

What is "Food Sovereignty" you might ask? According to one definition, food sovereignty is the right of peoples, communities, and countries to define their own agricultural, labor, fishing, food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. It includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food-producing resources and the ability to sustain themselves and societies. [from "Food Sovereignty: A Right for All," a political statement of the NGO/CSO Forum for Food Sovereignty. Issued on June 13, 2002 in Rome].

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