Regional Systems Project continues to educated about healthy eating on and off reservations

TUBA CITY, Ariz. - The Regional Systems Project met Dec. 14 to discuss the future of the group. Trudy Billy, who coordinated the meeting, invited different groups to attend the meeting to bring updates from their respective programs.

In attendance were Food Corps members John Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, Coconino County Health Services, Unity Through Sustainability and State Representative Jamescita Peshlakai. The opening of the Cultural Sustainabilty Paviliion at the Legacy Inn by the Unity Through Sustainability was discussed. Another item group members discussed was the possibility of meeting with the CEO of Bashas' to discuss concerns about the availability of healthy foods at the grocery store.

Also discussed was the intent to combine the Regional Food Systems Group with the dormant Western Navajo Food Policy Council, a group Peshlakai was involved with before taking office in the Arizona State Legislature. The Food Policy Council worked on getting the Navajo tribe to address some of the concerns regarding healthy foods and the importance of healthy eating.

Billy proposed merging the two groups. Peshlakai suggested getting input from other tribes in the region to find out how they might like to participate. Billy also suggested changing the name to reflect the region of Tuba City and surrounding areas.

"We want to reflect this as a group representing the Tuba City region which includes Hopi and San Juan Paiutes," Billy said.

Billy has been working with the Policy Group to enable Woman, Infants and Children (WIC) recipients to purchase produce with WIC vouchers at the annual farmer's markets.

Sister Elizabeth from St Jude's Food Bank said the food bank is putting on monthly workshops to help individuals with budgeting and tax preparation.

"There are tax services that will file taxes for fees, however we will offer tax preparation for free and are looking for people to train to become tax preparers," she said.

The workshops will take place at St Jude's Parish in the early evenings and child care services will be available. The group plans to hold monthly workshops on a variety of subjects.

The Food Corps group is preparing for this year's community farming project as well with plans to start cleaning the irrigation ditches and preparing the plots for farming. According to Jessica Delmar from John Hopkins, the Grand Canyon Trust has provided funding for the project but new participants are not being accepted because the future of the project is still being discussed. One attendee suggested giving the community ownership of the project to allow the work to be done by individual community members instead of the current organizations that may not have the time and resources. That would allow the potential for grant funding and more individuals might be able to participate.

The Regional Food Group will make a final presentation on the status of the group at the next meeting. Community members and organizations interested in participating in developing policy can attend. More information is available from Trudy Billy at (928) 283-6886.

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