Food Sovereignty

ZYEP’s first nutrition lessons were held in traditional waffle gardens (or hek’ko:we) and led by agriculture leaders who taught our first summer campers about how the growth of plants parallels the growth of children. ZYEP’s Food Sovereignty programs now make an average of 9,000 annual nutritional contacts with youth and families through our in-school, after-school, and community initiatives. We define food sovereignty as our community’s ability to grow, share, and be nourished by our Native foods, contributing to the health of our people and the continuation of our traditions. ZYEP’s food sovereignty programs are described below.

“No Sugary Drink” Policy

Also called the Sugar Free Zone, the ZYEP team and program participants promote water as the healthiest beverage choice at all ZYEP spaces and events. ZYEP prohibits sugary drinks and provides our youth participants and their families with water and water bottles as an alternative. Youth that participate in our program consistently report that they consume more water per day as a result of participating in our program.

Plant-based snacks and meals

Another example of our commitment to nutrition is our policy of serving a plant-based menu of snacks and meals at all ZYEP spaces, meetings, programs, and events. ZYEP typically serves over 4,000 snacks and meals per year made from vegetables, fruit, grains, beans, nuts, seeds and healthy fats, as well as occasional locally-sourced meat such as elk, beef, or chicken. We strive to adopt Zuni traditional recipes and also create new ones that Zuni youth can replicate at home.

Food Sovereignty Internships

Food Sovereignty Internships provide year-round opportunities for young Zuni leaders (ages 15-24) to learn about gardening and nutrition and share that knowledge with younger Zuni youth. Food Sovereignty interns help lead a wide variety of initiatives, such as our community gardens, nutrition education in schools, and community collaborations that target gardening and nutrition policy. In one year, our interns created over 9,000 gardening/nutrition experiences with Zuni youth and families, meaning that there were at least 9,000 instances where a child or adult received gardening or nutrition education, ate a healthy snack, or cooked a healthy meal.

In-School Nutrition

ZYEP works with the Zuni Public School District (ZPSD) to expand the opportunities youth have to engage in healthy nutrition during the school day. With support from New Mexico’s Department of Health (NMDOH), ZYEP implements a middle school nutrition class during the spring and fall semester where students prepare healthy meals and learn about the nutritional benefits of what they are eating. In the fall, ZYEP collaborates with the elementary school to implement a health promotion curriculum that encourages all students to “Eat Smart” so they can “Play Hard”. In the spring, ZYEP implements a 5-2-1-0 Challenge that encourages all elementary students to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, limit screen time to 2 hours or less, be active 1 hour per day, and replace sugar sweetened beverages with water.

Community Gardens

In our commitment to connecting youth to Zuni traditions, ZYEP has helped establish and maintain community garden spaces throughout Zuni Pueblo. Guided by ZYEP’s Agriculture Committee, ZYEP facilitates opportunities for Zuni agriculture leaders to weave historical photos, artifacts, and traditional stories into hands-on gardening while giving students the experience of planting and growing their own food.

Family At-Home Gardening and Rain Harvesting

In 2020, ZYEP provided direct gardening support and education to young Zuni farmers and families by distributing 240 home garden kits, 120 rain harvest kits, how-to videos, and online education. In addition, Ho’n A:wan Park and the IHS Community Gardens were utilized to grow Native/non-GMO/organic drought-resistant seeds to share the following year. ZYEP plans to continue this at-home garden and rain harvest program into the future.

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