Since 1989 the White Earth Land Recovery Project has worked to achieve food sovereignty on the original land base of the reservation. This year (07-08), WELRP has moved toward that goal by adding a Farm to School Program component to the Mino-miijim (Good Food) Program.
The Farm to School Program has achieved much in its first few
months beginning with a revamping of the breakfast and lunch menu at the Pine Point School.
Adding fresh, local and organic ingredients, wherever possible, and removing food dyes and processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup, students and staff have enjoyed new menu items ranging from yellow watermelon, organic carrots, organic pork sausage, organic highlander beef, buffalo, multi-grain cereal, and organic whole wheat cream of wheat. In addition to regular meals, each month the Farm to School Program has catered a community feast and an Elders lunch.
Eating healthier food is the first step in preventing health and behavioral problems such as diabetes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, the scope and goals of the program reach beyond simply better nutrition. By working with local farmers, eighteen families thus far, we are able to support our local economy and build stronger food systems in our community. Many farmers have had the chance to come share a feast with the students and see the product of their work.
Students, in conjunction with the 21st century after-school program, are also learning about local food systems. They have taken trips to visit a wild rice mill, apple orchard and heritage turkey farm learning about where each of these foods comes from and visiting with the growers.
The fourth grade class spent a week focusing on mandaamin (corn). In the classroom they wrote haiku poems and learned about seasonal food, while outside the classroom they went to help harvest native Bear Island Flint corn and learn its significance for Ojibwe people. Students were later taught how to braid the corn to properly dry it for storage. In winter, we began traditional cooking classes with community members and decorated the school cafeteria with Ojibwe art and vocabulary.
It is our hope that relocalizing our food system and reintroducing traditional foods will create not only healthier children, but a healthier community.