Extreme poverty and the loss of traditional foods have caused many Native Americans to suffer from poor or inadequate diets. This has led to increased obesity, diabetes, and other profound health problems on a large scale.
Nearly 16% of Native Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes, more than double the percentage of Caucasians. More than 30% of Native Americans are obese. Native Americans are 1.6 times more likely to become obese than Caucasians. Experts agree that 80% of the battle in addressing these health issues is creating access to healthy food. Yet the federal government spends less than $1 million annually on Native American nutrition education.
Important work to solve the problems of Indian nutrition is already being done by many tribes, nonprofits, public health experts, researchers, and advocates on a localized basis. But much more work remains to be done to raise awareness, spread knowledge, create capacity for change, and develop additional solutions.
Seeds of Native Health is a multifaceted national campaign to improve Native American nutrition and is supported by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. The effort includes grant-making, sharing of best practices, capacity-building, sponsored research, and educational initiatives.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) has committed $10 million to improve the nutrition of Native Americans through its Seeds of Native Health campaign. The SMSC is a federally recognized, sovereign Indian tribe located southwest of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The SMSC has a deep tradition of helping other tribes and Native American people. This campaign represents a new extension of the SMSC’s long history of philanthropy, by committing a portion of its annual charitable giving to a dedicated purpose. Having donated more than $325 million since opening its Gaming Enterprise in the 1990s, as well as loaning more than $500 million to other tribes, the SMSC is the largest philanthropic benefactor for Indian Country nationally and one of the largest charitable givers in Minnesota.