Digging in: Supporting a healthy, sustainable food future in Omaha Nation

This report is authored by Becky Keim, Center for Rural Affairs

 

This report documents the current state of the food system on the Omaha Reservation and identifies strategies and areas of consideration to enable the Omaha people and their neighbors to move toward realizing self-reliance of their food system. As part of the Omaha Nation Food System Initiative, the Center for Rural Affairs, alongside the advisory committee, interviewed and surveyed those living on the Reservation. Data was gathered on the current state of their food system in an effort to build a community-wide understanding of the impacts of this food system on the community.

Data collected from the Omaha Nation Food System Initiative reveals several key findings: 

  • People living on the Reservation lack access to healthy, affordable, and culturally-appropriate foods;
  • Many residents are reliant on food assistance programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), to meet their basic food needs; and
  • There is overwhelming interest in revitalizing traditional Omaha foods and agriculture.

Based on these findings, the Omaha community should work on developing initiatives to address lack of access to healthy, fresh, and affordable foods on the Reservation – initiatives that also focus on incorporating traditional foods and agricultural practices, including, but not limited to: 

  • Educating the community about healthy, traditional foods and offering these items at food access points that already exist on the Reservation;
  • Creating additional access points to traditional foods, such as mobile grocery stores or veggie vans, community-supported agriculture (CSA), farmers markets, food hubs, and seed banks; and 
  • Instituting or working to achieve policy changes related to the food system on the Reservation, such as creating a plan to develop and support farm-to-institution sourcing and local food entrepreneurs, and/or bringing about land use policy reform to allow portions of Tribal land to be used to provide for the food needs on the Reservation.

The foregoing initiatives will help the Omaha people create a healthier community, revitalize traditional foods, create a self-sufficient food system, and develop a more resilient Nation.