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Susquehanna Life

First Nations Development Institute & Their Nutrition for Native American Communities Project

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A total of three cookbooks were developed by First Nations Development Institute under a project aimed at healthier cooking and improving nutrition for recipients of the USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, or FDPIR.   

First Nations’ longtime food effort–the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative–and newer partnerships in the FDPIR Nutrition for Native American Communities project and the Seeds of Native Health campaign, led us to think that sharing cookbooks and a few recipes–some of which use traditional Native ingredients or processes, or which can be prepared with food items in the FDPIR program–would be a wonderful way to observe Native American Heritage Month.

“There is a major shift occurring in Indian Country as Native people are producing their own traditional foods on their own lands to sustain themselves, their families and their communities. This movement is an act of sovereignty and will contribute to having sustainable sources of foods. We sincerely thank our community partners for providing these cookbooks and recipes this year.


First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is a Native American-led, national, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen American Indian economies in support of healthy Native communities.

First Nations' mission is: "Through a three-pronged strategy of Educating Grassroots Practitioners, Advocating For Systemic Change and Capitalizing Indian Communities, First Nations is working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own - be they land, human potential, cultural heritage, or natural resources - and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native communities. First Nations is the ONLY Native American controlled nonprofit dedicated to asset-based, sustainable development. First Nations is committed to building healthy economies in Indian Country based on a strategy that puts Native communities in control of their assets."

In the field of Native American assets, those associated with natural resources and food production are among the most critical. Native communities need fresh food sources (because majority are located in food deserts) and economic development that is in keeping with Native culture and tradition and available assets. Farming, ranching and land management are long-time traditions in many Native communities and are essential assets affecting Native communities' economic health and Native community members' overall physical health.

First Nations' Nourishing Native Foods and Health program developed the Native Agriculture Food Systems Initiative (otherwise known as NAFSI) which supports tribes and Native communities in building sustainable food systems that improve health and nutrition, strengthen food security, alleviate elder hunger, and increase control over Native agriculture and food systems.

Since 2001, First Nations has become the recognized leader in Native American food systems work. First Nations is the largest private Native grant maker in Indian Country that supports efforts to reclaim control of Native food systems.


A vital part of this project was partnering with the National Association of Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations (NAFDPIR), a national nonprofit organization representing 276 tribes that have citizens participating in the federal Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), one of the most important feeding programs on reservations. Its membership is comprised of over 100 Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs as defined by federal law and regulation) and a few State officials and their offices serving the 276 tribes. The FDPIR program, commonly referred to as the commodity food program in Native communities, is an alternative to the SNAP program.

Research indicated the majority of FDPIR households are both low-income homes with elderly and children. Currently, FDPIR is operated by a group of dedicated program managers at the community level. A large majority of these managers are over the age of 50 and have served in their capacities over as managers for over 10 years. These dedicated managers are largely responsible for education and advocacy efforts to include healthier and traditional food options into the food packages offered under FDPIR and promote dignity, education and community through this very important feeding program.


The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) is a federal feeding program whereby local FDPIR programs in or near Native communities provide USDA foods monthly to income eligible households living on Indian reservations, and to American Indian households residing in approved areas near reservations or in Oklahoma. Currently, there are approximately 276 tribes receiving benefits under the FDPIR. Food for distribution is purchased by the USDA and shipped to local programs. Local authorized distributors then store and distribute the food, determine applicant eligibility, and provide some limited nutrition education to recipients. FDPIR is one of the few federal feeding programs that reaches the most vulnerable Indian populations – those in isolated areas and those without access to vehicles to travel to grocery stores.

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