How does the Navajo Tribe engage students simultaneously in culture and nutrition? A May 2016 webinar titled, “Community Food Systems in Native Communities: Engaging Students” focused on the food systems of the Navajo tribe, and explored this question.
The presenter fused information about school lunches and how traditional foods can be used in combination with a wealth of knowledge surrounding the Navajo culture. Effective and innovative school nutrition programs can be found in all cultures. Schools that are interested in incorporating traditional meals into their school’s lunch program, should know that funds may be available for this venture.
In the Navajo culture, corn is the main staple so corn is often used in engaging students and in creating traditional Navajo meals. The Navajo tribe has a rich history, spanning from the Scorched Earth campaign to things that affect the Navajo tribe now, such as fracking.
One of the main points of this talk was that the Navajo generate income by placing a 2% sales tax on junk food. Through this sales tax, the Navajo have raised one million dollars, which is used for increasing healthy food options. The food options offered include everything from chocolate to oatmeal. These foods are prepared in a way that make them healthy and the soil is specially prepared for seeds and planting.
In present day, the Navajo tribe uses ancestral ways of planting seeds and like their ancestors, they celebrate each stage of the plant’s growth, from sowing to reaping. The Navajo have several student programs where students work in community gardens, reaping corn, shucking corn, and preparing the corn for harvest. It was important to the Navajo to use all parts of harvested foods. This tradition continues with some Navajo foods even being used as medicines for healing. It is also important to the Navajo to pass this information down to young people, so students are taught these practices. It is important that schools or communities interested in implementing similar food programs, first contact the Navajo elders in the area for consultation. The Navajo have continued to keep these traditions and practices alive, to ensure that culture through food is passed down from generation to generation.
- United States Department of Agriculture. The Farm to School Program. Community Food Systems in Native Communities: Engaging Students. Webinar. May 25, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3330BfRq3VM