By Rebecca Edler, Sustainability Coordinator
Sustainable Development Institute, College of Menominee Nation

What is food security and how is it linked to sovereignty? This is one of many questions discussed at the 2015 Food Sovereignty Summit held in Oneida on October 26-29. Interest in food security brought together concerned Tribal members, collaborating agencies, educators, healthcare workers, chefs, and Native business owners from across the nation to share best practices and learn about food systems, production, and successful marketing techniques. An awaking to the importance of food sovereignty is brought on by a multitude of contributors such as climate change awareness, the concern of consuming genetically modified foods, lack of food access, and the frustration that many Tribal Leaders encounter when reviewing health statistics overshadowed by obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The thought that Tribes are responsible to feed their members is not new; however, the means in which to do so is changing. The summit demonstrated some of these changes by bringing to the forefront stories of Tribes and Tribal Members taking on the challenge of becoming self-sufficient by growing their own food through community gardening, promoting individual garden plots, and exploring production gardening.

To strengthen capacity, traditional methods of gardening, which are shared by elders, as well as modern farming techniques, are being taught to community members with the hope of expanding economic opportunities through food production and improving the health conditions within the community through embracing healthy eating habits. Sovereignty allows a tribe to make decisions that are in the best interest of their tribal members, moving this concept into the arena of food is in the best interest of the people. Moving towards total food sovereignty will take work and dedication; however, most good things are worth working for.