Vitalyst Health Foundation
PHOENIX – June 26, 2108 -- White Mountain Apache Tribe - Ndee Bikiyaa (The People’s Farm) received a $125,000 Vitalyst Health Foundation Innovation Grant, in partnership with The NARBHA Institute, for the Ndee (Apache) Community Food Pipeline Project. The project will create a tribal food safety policy that reinvigorates the community’s capacity to produce, package and sell wild-harvested and traditionally-farmed foods.
“This innovative project will create new opportunities for tribal economic growth and help re-establish traditional food in the community,” explains Clayton Harvey, a farmer with the Food Pipeline Project. “This grant will have a direct impact on the health of our approximately 12,000 tribal members.”
Currently, over fifty percent of the tribal members living on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in east-central Arizona are diagnosed with type II diabetes or other diet-related disease. This is caused in part by the lack of access to healthy foods, including traditional Apache foods. In addition, the unemployment rate on the reservation is estimated to be over 60%. The Ndee Community Food Pipeline Project will address both economic and health issues by expanding the production and consumption of indigenous foods.
Ndee Bikiyaa (The People’s Farm) is a small tribally-owned fruit and vegetable farm that will serve as the lead organization on this project. Harvey will work with an established coalition of local farmers and wild foods gatherers to sell their food. This will be done through a combination of community farm training, and the creation of a tribal and localized food safety certification program for producers that will allow them to sell to institutions such as Café Gozhoo, a Western Apache café opening in fall 2018 that will integrate the tastes and flavors of Apache food with exciting new techniques while activating ancestral knowledge in learning and service. Specialties will include Nada’Ban (White Mountain Apache corn bread), Squash Stew, Red Chili, and Acorn Stew.
Chef Nephi Craig, head chef at Café Gozhoo, says there is a stigma attached to “healthy” eating, which he hopes to change with his unique approach to fresh Western Apace cooking. Craig, who has traveled the world doing training and workshops on native foods, says he sees the economic and health benefits of partnering with Ndee Bikiyaa.
“Café Gozhoo is a collaborative community partner and we will work with Ndee Bikiyaa to get fresh foods and wild sourced foods to the community,” says Craig, who explains that he will be using fresh Apache produce on the menu and creating a space inside the café to sell some of the produce to customers. “Café staff will highlight indigenous foods and communicate to guests those stories that the ingredients hold.”
About Vitalyst Health Foundation
Vitalyst Health Foundation is on a mission to connect, support and inform efforts to improve the health of individuals and communities in Arizona. Established following the sale of the St. Luke’s Hospital System to a for-profit corporation in 1996, the foundation operated as St. Luke’s Charitable Health Trust (1996-1999) and St. Luke’s Health Initiatives (2000-2016). Today, Vitalyst is an independent, non-partisan public foundation dedicated to improving access to care and coverage throughout Arizona; advancing policies and practices that result in healthy communities that are accessible to all; increasing the capacity and effectiveness of community-based leaders, organizations and coalitions; cultivating collaborations and innovations that leverage the elements of a healthy community; and increasing civic participation for inclusive decision-making to advance health equity. Over its history, the foundation has invested more than $100 million and established itself as a key thought leader, convener and catalyst of key initiatives – ranging from statewide health policy and systems to development of local community gardens.