Getting Back to Ancestral Foods 

As one of many ways we improve food access in tribal communities, Partnership With Native Americans® (PWNA) offers a Produce service through our Native American Aid (NAA) program. Our Program Partner, Karen R., recently organized a produce and bison meat distribution for 150 households on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, made possible with support from Olo for Good. One beneficiary was 61-year-old Judy F. of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Judy travels 40 miles one way for groceries. After bills, the rest of her money goes to gas and her daughter’s medical costs. 

Getting Back to Ancestral Foods 

Many Native American families find themselves in constant distress, such as facing food shortages. Partnership With Native Americans® (PWNA) offers many services to improve food access in Tribal communities, including a Produce service through our Native American Aid (NAA) program. 

Our Program Partner Karen R. recently organized a produce and bison meat distribution for 150 households on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, made possible with support from Olo for Good. Karen was happy to see residents receiving this vital nutrition. She shared, “Our ancestors raised us on buffalo. We were healthy with no sicknesses like cancer, diabetes, or obesity. We were active hunters and used every part of the buffalo – hooves, horns, tails, to the tip of the nose. I wanted to bring back that ancestral way today by offering a couple of delicious meals for families. We really appreciate everything provided.” 

One recipient of the bison and produce was 61-year-old Judy F. of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Judy spent 31 years teaching children in the Special Education program at Pine Ridge Elementary School. Now retired, she works part-time at a substance abuse center, supporting operations and cooking meals for clients.  

Judy is health-conscious after the COVID-19 pandemic when she lost her husband and friends to the disease. She keeps healthy by eating nutritious food and exercising each night. She also noted her love for cooking. 

Bison is lean meat, making it heart-healthy and rich in protein. Judy explained, “Bison meat is expensive and hard to get, so I’m happy we’re getting it.” Judy will cook bison stew with a side of cornbread. She was also excited to receive sweet corn and potatoes. She told us, “There is so much you can do with potatoes. I go through at least two bags a month.” She will save some food for later, freezing the peaches and squash, and drying the corn to eat all winter long. “I don’t have the money to eat out. I wish I could garden, but I don’t have money for seeds and all the watering.”  

Judy noted that the local produce selection is not great. A dozen eggs at her local store costs $8, so she travels a bit farther for a better selection. Judy shared, “It takes a lot of planning and budgeting, especially driving 40 miles just to get groceries. I spend $500 a month on groceries, and if I need toilet paper or cleaning supplies, it’s even more. I have to make everything stretch until my next check.” 

Thanks to the bison and produce, Judy saved an estimated $100, which will go toward gas and bills. “I think about my bills before spending anything,” she noted. After paying house and car bills, she feels lucky if she has $200 to live on for the month. Her daughter Jeanette lives next door, and Judy helps pay her medical bills. 

Judy also faces another challenge, staying warm for winter. Her furnace is broken, and a new one costs $9,000, so she uses electric heaters. She added, “My stove gave out too, so I cook with electric skillets and burn fuses half the time. When something goes out, I am on my own, and I don’t have the money.”  

Judy lives 24 miles away from Pine Ridge in Rushville, Nebraska. She has tried to move to the reservation, but there are limited housing options. “There are already three or four families per house. It is a big problem, especially for Elders,” she told us. 

Judy also noted that transportation is an issue for Pine Ridge Elders, saying, “Donors help a lot of our elderly people, but they still need to get to town for supplies.” 

Support Judy and other Native Americans with a donation to NAA today.  

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