The Blackfeet Nation has minimal healthy food and nutrition options for its Tribal community members. FAST (Food Access and Sustainability Team) Blackfeet, a sub-awardee of the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, operates their Food Pharmacy Program to make healthy food more accessible and give participants the skills and knowledge to eat well.
The Food Pharmacy Program is a unique partnership between a Tribal health clinic, the Southern Piegan Health Center (SPHC), and a community non-profit, FAST Blackfeet. Participants are referred to FAST Blackfeet from the clinic if they have a diet-related disease diagnosis and are experiencing food insecurity. To address their diagnosis, The Food Pharmacy Program provides participants access to nutrition counseling with a registered dietitian, group cooking classes, fresh fruit and vegetable vouchers, and specialized food boxes from FAST Blackfeet’s Ō ́yō ́ṗ ́ Food Pantry.
A contract with Blackfeet Tribal Health allows for FAST Blackfeet’s dietitian to provide medical nutrition therapy (MNT) at the Southern Peigan Health Center. This connects SPHC patients with nutrition counseling and FAST Blackfeet’s programs. FAST is currently evaluating the opportunities for third party billing for MNT, which could provide sustainable funding for the nutrition programs.
The cooking classes use indigenous Blackfeet foods and incorporate Indigenous nutrition concepts and knowledge. 110 individuals have been referred to the program for MNT or cooking classes. The participants were happy to learn about nutrition, Blackfeet foods, and traditional preparation methods and many reported they enjoyed having a group to learn and cook with.
Participants also receive fresh fruit and vegetable vouchers to be used at local grocery stores, which helps them access the foods being recommended. Five retailers on the Blackfeet Reservation are accepting vouchers, to include two in small remote communities and one summer produce stand.
In 6-month follow up surveys, 15 of 21 participants stated that their consumption of fruits and vegetables has increased. 97.7% feel more confident in their ability to choose and prepare healthy foods after participating in cooking classes.
50 adults and 1 youth have been enrolled in nutrition education and vouchers. 68 additional youth live with these participants and benefit from the fresh produce vouchers.
“I learned something every class and loved all of our chats and sharing of recipes, nutritional information”
– Class Participant 1
“It really ignited my love for cooking, and gave me confidence to cook with more veggies and broadened my families dinner options”
– Class Participant 2
“This was a great experience! I learned a lot about basic meal prep with common fresh food items and the nutritional value that makes your tummy happy. My children found recipes they both enjoyed and have requested repeats of and that is a very big deal!!!”
– Class Participant 3
“I wouldn’t be able to eat so many fruits and vegetables if it weren’t for the vouchers”
– MNT patient
“This helps me overall to live a healthy lifestyle; no worries about not having food”
– MNT patient
The GHWIC Project has had an impact in expanding access to healthier foods in this community and demonstrates that healthy foods will be purchased if available. The healthy food options are placed prominently at the front of the store. Thanks to the C Store Manager and Tribal Council support, community members have increased access to healthier food options offered locally especially for individuals who are dependent on the C Store for groceries.