Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Thu, Oct. 29

Regional Food Systems Project continues fight against hunger on Rez

TUBA CITY, Ariz. - The Regional Food Systems Project (RFSP) met July 26 to discuss updates and activities. RFSP was established last year to address food availability issues in the community.

Trudy Billy, St. Jude's Food Bank director of operations, ran the meeting.

"Our clientele continues to increase each month and by educating people to spread their food budget out or encouraging their own food production would help to feed people," she said.

The food bank served 1,370 families in June.

"Food availability can be an added stressor to families in addition to other issues such as substance abuse when there is worry about feeding your family," Billy said.

Billy recently approached Tuba City Regional Health Care Center for support. She reported officials at the Center were very supportive of the group's efforts and look forward to any collaboration.

One event that the group is looking forward to is the Painted Desert Farmers Market. This is a farmers market where the public can sell, barter or trade their produce or prepared food items, such as steamed corn and piki.

St. Jude's food bank is able to utilize EBT or Food Stamps cards to pay for purchases at the Farmers Market by reimbursing the sellers. The first market took place Aug. 2 from 8am-12pm and will continue each Thursday evening until the beginning of October at the Legacy Inn behind Denny's. The Farmers Market was developed through a partnership with local organizations called Unity through Sustainability and includes the Moenkopi Developers Corporation, John Hopkins's, Grand Canyon Trust and others.

Billy is currently waiting to hear from the USDA regarding a grant, which promotes farmers markets in communities called the Farmers Market Promotion Program. The grant would allow the Farmers Market to provide incentives for farmers to sell; teach farmers marketing techniques as a small business owner; create mobile markets in outlying areas in Hopi and Navajo communities and hire individuals to help coordinate the food market.

Another initiative that is being discussed is the use of Women's Infant and Children (WIC) vouchers at Farmers Markets. Billy mentioned that the voucher program is something RFSP would like to pursue to allow people to make healthier food purchases for their children.

Ultimately RFSP would like to increase knowledge about food purchasing and healthy eating and create a food resource guide. The group wants to increase access to quality food through gardening, economic development and farm to store and schools programs by advocating for new food policy and educating local and tribal leaders through organizations such as the Western Navajo Food Policy Council.

Billy said she would like to see more community involvement like volunteering, donations and participation in events.

More information is a available at (928) 283-9886.

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