Yuroks’ access to food will be studied
A federal grant may help residents of the Yurok Reservation — some of them 20 miles from the nearest grocery store — get better access to nutritious foods.
A $20,000 Department of Agriculture grant will allow the tribe to take a closer look at how best to address the issue.
By the USDA’s own designation, the reservation is located in an identified “low income and low food access priority area,” where residents have a high rate of diabetes and heart disease, ailments associated with poor diets, according to the grant application.
Partnering with the California Center for Rural Policy, the tribe will examine barriers existing on the reservation to eating well. They will also look at the buying and consuming habits of residents, as well as what they would like to have available. The studies will culminate in an action plan for moving forward.
CCRP studied food access in all of Del Norte County in 2012, concluding locals in general needed better access to fresh produce. To the north, Smith River lost its last produce vendor when Ray’s Food Place closed in 2013.
On the reservation, “the grocery store is on the top of our list,” said Amanda Mager for the Yurok Tribe. “We are also looking at ways to support local community gardens and the opportunities surrounding traditional food sources.”
The tribe hopes to increase access to traditional foods, while maintaining “the important balance between harvesting and regeneration,” she said.
As an example of one of the barriers the tribe hopes to take down, Mager noted quality breads aren’t available on the reservation. Bread companies want a minimum order too large for the reservation market.
To address this, the tribe could look at establishing a bakery or a local distributor, or look at cooperative purchasing among retailers, she said.
The tribe will also look at food processing to fit niche markets, she said, “obviously salmon is on the top of the list, but other opportunities exist.”
A final action plan is what the tribe hopes to work out using the grant money, “that clearly identifies opportunities to increase access to healthier food sources, while at the same time creating a sustainability model for implementation,” Mager said. “We would love to see some small business opportunities come from this study and hope to use the results to influence future food policies and resource development.”
The USDA’s Local Food Promotion Program granted an additional $200,000 to other organizations in the region, including the Arcata Economic Development Corporation, Food for People in Eureka and the Commercial Fishing Association of Bodega Bay.
“California’s North Coast is home to some of the best farms, fisheries, and ranches in the nation, and our region is a leader in the local food movement,” said U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman in a recent press release. “These federal funds will be put to good use, improving access to local food and expanding markets for our ranchers, farmers, and local fishing businesses. The diversity in our awardees is a testament to the North Coast’s legacy of sustainable agriculture and sustainable seafood, and I look forward to supporting their continued efforts.”