The lack of access to nutritious food is a major issue across Indian Country. One program in Nevada is looking to increase healthy habits among youth on reservations and the rural communities surrounding them.
The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s long-running Veggies for Kids program works to encourage Native American children to eat more fruits and vegetables, drink more water and be more physically active.
While it started a couple of decades ago, it wasn’t until recently that researchers started measuring its success. According to a paper published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, the program is working.
“We were able to show increases in knowledge in just about every area,” said Staci Emm, a professor and extension educator at the University of Nevada, Reno and lead author of the paper.
Emm says she’s now working to publish more findings in hopes of securing federal funding to duplicate the program in other areas. But if that happens, Emm says it’s important to include local voices.
“In this curriculum, if you are, let’s say, in Colorado, we want to be able to use the local tribes’ culture and their traditional foods and their language,” she said.
Emm says she’s also looking for funding outside of federal dollars so the program can focus less on national standards and more on traditional native food sources, like buck berries, pine nuts and venison.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.