Pumpkin Party for a Better Food Future

Santee pumpkin decorating Pumpkins got a spotlight one night earlier than usual this year in Santee, Nebraska. On October 30, members of the Santee Sioux Nation and others in the community gathered for an event that celebrated pumpkins to promote growing, cooking, and eating fresh, healthy foods.

In Santee and many places like it, fresh foods aren’t widely available. In fact, they’ve been missing from store shelves for so long that many people don’t know how to cook them. Or they don’t like how fresh foods taste compared to the processed, packaged foods that are so easy to get.

Unfortunately, these high-calorie low-nutrient processed foods contribute to rising nationwide obesity and diabetes rates. On reservations like Santee, these rates are sky-high.

How can people start eating healthier? Growing fresh foods in a garden and being able to buy affordable fresh foods at a store or farmers market are pieces of the puzzle. But for a community to change its food culture, people also need the cooking skills, time, and desire to eat unfamiliar fresh foods that take a little more effort than the packaged norm. That’s where teaching cooking skills and sharing tasty, easy dishes made with fresh, affordable foods comes in.

At the community night event, the Santee Garden and Market Project partnered with the Santee Community School to help make fresh foods more accessible. One hundred fifty students and parents enjoyed a homemade meal featuring fresh pumpkin in every dish and took home recipes to recreate the dishes. Then, children decorated pumpkins with markers and stickers. The pumpkins were theirs to keep, bring home, and later, cook.

One night of fresh foods doesn’t change people’s diets for the long term. But the more fresh foods are available and appreciated in Santee and all of our communities, the more we grow a healthier food future for all.

You can find the pumpkin recipes featured in the community dinner here.