from the Tohono Oodham Community Action Youth Cooking Class
tantalized the taste buds of the judges in a national cooking competition
with Native ingredients from their community, winning them the prestigious
contest in Detroit, Mich. in May.
Cooking Up Change competition, part of the Healthy Schools Campaign
and the Farm to School program, allows students to actively address
the issue of local foods and school nutrition. Teams of high school
and college students are challenged to create a healthy, great-tasting
meal that meets high nutritional standards, incorporates a local
food item, draws from readily available ingredients and can be prepared
in a school cafeteria.
TOCA Youth Community Cooking Class members, Ross Miguel, Yvette
Ventura, and Zade Arnold were the only Native American team to make
it to the finals. They triumphed with a tepary bean quesadilla,
baby spinach and pear salad with carrot vinaigrette, and a yogurt
peanut butter fruit dip. They introduced new and exciting flavors
to the competition that are also culturally appropriate and that
have sustained their community for generations.
beans are the most significant traditional food of the Tohono Oodham
people, the team explained to the Healthy Schools Campaign.
They also locally sourced their carrots and spinach from the Student
Learning Farm at Tohono Oodham Community College in Sells,
quesadilla is something we have at school but we wanted to make
a better, healthier one. We love spinach and carrots so the salad
idea just popped into our heads. When we saw peanut butter and yogurt
on the list, we thought it would be good together, the team
said to the Healthy Schools Campaign.
explained that creating a healthy meal is also part of creating
a healthy community. Its our traditional way to be healthy
and we need to get back to that with our traditional foods,
beans, bawi, are indigenous to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and
can only be found there. Not only are they one of the most heat
and drought resistant crops in the world but, they are also incredibly
nutritious. They are extremely high in protein and very low on the
glycemic index, which measures the effects of carbohydrates on blood
sugar levels. As a result, they are particularly good for the Tohono
Oodham people who have the highest rate of diabetes among
Native American groups, according to the USDA.
wasnt even known in the community until the 1960s yet today,
more than 50 percent of the population develops the disease, the
highest rate in the world.
and adult obesity contribute to the diabetes crisis, creating a
vicious cycle of weight gain and insulin intolerance.
centuries, traditional desert foods like the tepary bean, corn and
squash sustained the Tohono Oodham people. Until the second
half of the 20th century, the Tohono Oodham were almost entirely
food self-sufficient. Agricultural practices adapted to the extreme
weather conditions, combined with hunting and gathering of wild
foods not only provided a varied diet for the community but it required
high levels of physical activity and stimulated a rich culture.
1930, the Tohono Oodham produced 1.4 million pounds of tepary
beans yet by 2001, fewer than 100 pounds were produced.
factors played a role in changing the food system in the Tohono
Oodham community over the years. Diabetes began to be diagnosed
at extremely high rates as processed foods were introduced and people
moved away from traditional foods.
of TOCAs main goals is to reintroduce native, traditional
foods not only in the schools system but also into the diet of the
community as a whole.
Paganelli, mentor of the winning team, said, Its about
the reintegration of culture and health and to show people the health
benefits and wonderful flavors of traditional foods.
is also the chef consultant at the Desert Rain Café, which
was opened on the Tohono Oodham reservation about a year and
a half ago in order to extend TOCAs mission of offering healthy,
traditional foods to the community.
will be using the winning recipe in the Desert Rain Café
so that everyone in the community will have a chance to taste it.
triumph for TOCA and the Youth Cooking Class is the integration
of one menu item per week featuring native foods in the Baboquivari
School District next year. A grant awarded to TOCA will pay for
locally grown foods from the TOCA farm to use in the students
growth of TOCA
Oodham Community Action (TOCA) is a community-based
organization dedicated to creating a healthy, sustainable,
and a culturally-vital community on the Tohono Oodham
was founded in 1996 by Terrel Dew Johnson and Tristan Reader
and has since grown into an important grassroots organization.
TOCA has four key Program Areas:
Food System & Wellness program creates physical, spiritual,
cultural and economic wellness through the promotion of
the traditional foods, Oodham sports, and the work
that has supported the Tohono Oodham community for
Basketweavers Organization makes basketweaving a viable
economic option and valued cultural practice for increased
numbers of Tohono Oodham.
Elder/Youth Outreach Initiative works with their communitys
young people and elders in the rejuvenation of Tohono Oodham
culture and the development of a sustainable community on
the Tohono Oodham Nation.
Arts and Culture Program is uniquely situated to contribute
to the revitalization of Tohono Oodham culture by
connecting their efforts to rejuvenate cultural practices
to provide a stronger foundation for cultural survival.
more information: http://www.tocaonline.org/www.tocaonline.org/Home.html.