Native American Households 400% More Likely to Face Food Insecurity

Growl, rumble, roar.

It’s the sound of your stomach letting you know it’s time to eat. You stand, walk to the refrigerator and cupboards to grab something that sounds tasty. You’re met with several options, such as aǧúyapi (bread), tȟaló (meat), or perhaps something a little more special, like čhaŋmháŋska ǧí (chocolate).

You choose whatever sounds right, take a seat at the kitchen or dining room table and enjoy your meal. This routine happens almost automatically.

This is because eating, for most people, is a given.

This is not always the case for Native American children living on South Dakota Indian Reservations. Meals are not always a given. Snacks are not a given. Sometimes, even running water is not a given.

According to a report from the Indian Health Services, American-Indian and Alaska Native children have about twice the levels of food insecurity compared to U.S. children of similar ages. In general, Native American households are 400% more likely to face food insecurity than the average U.S. family.

But, thanks to generous supporters from around the world, students at St. Joseph’s Indian School are fed – and this is a strong given.

“Education, programs, campus homes and things like that often take most of the attention when people think of what’s provided at our school,” said Mike. “But what the Food Services staff at our school accomplish is also huge for our students.”

During the 2017-18 school year, St. Joseph’s Food Services department provided daily fresh fruit and vegetable snacks for all students; 32,013 meals were served to students, staff and guests throughout the school year; and 4,017 meals were served throughout the summer during Rising Eagle Day Camp. And this doesn’t even include all the breakfasts and dinners cooked in all 20 of our campus homes for over 200 students!

Think of the all the times growling stomachs were put at ease.

Moreover, we understand the job of feeding students doesn’t stop at the dinner table or in the dining hall. Educating students about how to make wise food decisions is essential for continuing lifelong, healthy habits. This is done through classroom education and through programs like CATCH.

“Our students, like most people, have emotional associations with food. Sometimes those attachments are healthy associations with healthy foods, and sometimes they are not,” said Trond, St. Joseph’s Health and Wellness Coach. “One of the objectives of the CATCH program is to not only educate students about healthy foods, but also to provide positive reinforcement for making healthy choices. This type of environment at St. Joseph’s can lead to positive emotional associations with healthy foods that can last a life time.”

It’s a big job, and one we don’t take lightly. But, there is so much joy in serving these young Lakota boys and girls.

“It is truly an honor to feed our students healthy and nutritious meals,” said Mike.

“And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the people.” – Mark 8:6-7

Pilamayathank you – for helping feed the thousands of students who have attended St. Joseph’s in the past, and the thousands who will in the future.

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

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