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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Changing Our Environment To Support Healthy Food Choices
by Valerie Nuvayestewa, Hopi Special Diabetes Program for Hopi Tutuveni

As Jamie Stang, Chair of the Public Health Nutrition Program at the University of Minnesota, writes, “Even the most culturally competent, evidence based programs, cannot improve eating behaviors among individuals or populations who live and work in an environment that does not support or provide healthy food choices.”(Journal of American Dietetic Association, Volume 109, Issue 9).

We know that the path towards a healthier lifestyle begins with eating the right kinds of food and exercising. We know this, but how many people are honestly making changes in their diets which will impact their bodies in a good way if our environment does not support or provide healthy food choices?

Planting our own fields and gardens is one way of making sure that we are taking a step in the right directions towards eating healthy. We also should be able to walk into our own village stores and have fresh produce, meats available at affordable prices. Yes, most of us shop at our local border towns, but what about the people who don’t have any other choice but to shop at our local village stores? Can you imagine the price they are paying to keep food on their tables for a couple of weeks, or even a month? Is it even healthy food they are purchasing or just the lowest priced items that may not have the most nutritional value? What steps can we take towards improving our environment for the health of our community?

Children help make a lasagna bed garden
Kim Castion demonstrating how to plant finger potatoes

I was a part of the Farmers Market at the Hopi Veteran’s Memorial Center on May 2, 2015, and there was a demonstration by Kim Costian, who works at Ashokala Gardens located in Flagstaff, on how to start your own garden. She demonstrated the lasagna bed method where she layered old manure on top of wood chips/hay, then added dirt on top, this provides the soil with nutrients and keeps moisture in. She also had a lot of great gardening tips and soil secrets. Patrick Pfeifer, of “Roots” composting demonstrated how to start your own compost pile. They showed the crowd all the different items, like banana peels, wilted lettuce, egg shells etc.; that we throw away that can be used to create your own compost pile. Their company is also located in Flagstaff.

Banana peels, lemon rinds and other vegetables that can be used to make compost

I have contacted our local village stores asking that they provide more nutritional foods at low prices. I also asked for discounts for elders. I found out that Keams Canyon Hopi Traders offers a 10% discount to elders every time they shop. They also encourage everyone to buy a minimum of $70.00 and receive a case of pop for $1.00 (I personally feel that they should offer water instead of pop). Senior citizens (60 and older) have the option to purchase the pop or receive the 10% discount if their purchase amount is $70.00. The key is the seniors need to ask for the senior discount. To receive fresher produce, they suggest coming to shop on Wednesdays since their delivery truck comes in on Tuesday afternoon. They also give a senior citizen discount of 10% on their meals at the café. The key again is to be sure to ask for the discount. John Kay also stated that if they do not stock an item, be sure to mention it to the staff and they will accommodate your request. I asked if these same discounts apply to Polacca Circle M Store which John also manages, and he stated, “No”. He would need to upgrade the registers there, and right now, it is not doable because it is not cost effective.

Hotevilla Co-op stores manager, Michael Hunter, states that they have a 10% discount for elders in place already. They just need to ask for an elder discount card, and they will receive a discount every time they shop there. He also stated that he does have whole grain products available so that WIC clients can use their checks there, but says that people need to ask for items they need, if it is things like low-fat products, and that they also need to buy the items they request for so that the store knows what to order. SUPPLY AND DEMAND. He did try selling low-fat products, but stated these items didn’t sell so they were not reordered. He also suggests coming on Wednesdays to shop for fresher produce. Kykotsmovi Village Store’s Julie Canyon stated that they received my letter and Tommy Canyon took it to the board that governs the store, and is not sure whether or not they will consider my request as they already offer discounts on their products.

These are just small steps towards making change in our environment to promote healthier lifestyles for our communities. What steps will you take in your own world to improve the health of your family? We all have to look out for one another and empower ourselves to move in the direction of health and well-being. Our children, grandchildren, and elders are our main focus and should always remain at the forefront of the decisions we make in our lives. What better motivation can there be than to see a child’s smile or to hear the laughter of our elders, and to know you are the reason they feel loved and cared for.

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