First-of-its-kind fund launched to support programs serving Minnesota’s Native children

Healthy Children Healthy Nations Fund to focus on improving early childhood development and nutrition in Native American communities

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC), Better Way Foundation, and the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations today announced the establishment of a new collaborative fund to help Native children thrive in reservation and urban settings. The Healthy Children Healthy Nations (HCHN) Fund is the first donor-advised fund dedicated to supporting innovation in and the expansion of early childhood development and childhood nutrition programs in Minnesota’s Native communities.

Under the administration of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations, the HCHN Fund will award grants to tribal governments and Native nonprofits in Minnesota for promising models, capacity-building, knowledge-sharing, and effective programming. The SMSC and Better Way Foundation have each committed $100,000 to seed the fund, and Casey Family Programs has pledged $20,000. The partners are seeking additional commitments from funders to expand the fund’s grantmaking abilities.

“The people who directly support Minnesota’s Native kids and families are doing inspiring work every day, but they need additional resources to enhance their work,” said SMSC Chairman Charles R. Vig. “We intend this fund to provide a boost to their efforts toward improving the health and well-being of Native American children in our state.”

The new collaborative fund is an outgrowth of the Healthy Children, Healthy Nations initiative, a project of the SMSC’S Seeds of Native Health campaign, Better Way Foundation, and the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. This joint effort issued a report in April 2018, “Charting Pathways on Early Childhood Development and Nutrition for Minnesota’s Native Children,” after it convened practitioners, funders and tribal leaders to determine ways to improve the health and well-being of Minnesota’s Native children.

“Supporting the health and development of Minnesota’s Native children is crucial, and we’re proud to partner with other funders on this initiative,” said Andreas Hipple, executive director of Better Way Foundation. “It will take time, resources and many voices at the table to accomplish our shared goal of building a better present and future for Native infants, children, and their families.”

There are more than 5,000 Native American children under the age of five in Minnesota. Many are at risk of starting school behind, and are more likely to suffer adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) than kids in other populations. According to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, an extra dollar spent on the education of vulnerable children saves between $4 and $16 in future social costs related to health care, education and crime.

“The importance of good nutrition in the earliest years of a child’s life is essential for healthy brain development,” said Jesse Chase, chair of Seeds of Native Health and the new HCHN Fund’s advisory committee. “For this reason, our grantmaking will intentionally support both early childhood development and childhood nutrition efforts.”

HCHN focus areas

Three areas of focus will frame the HCHN Fund’s grantmaking:

  • Expand Native early childhood development programs that are rooted in traditional knowledge, provide Native perspectives on childhood development, and celebrate Native language, identities and cultures.
  • Provide healthful early nutrition by encouraging investment in breastfeeding education, supporting partnerships among food producers and child care providers, and expanding access to healthy, traditional food outside of child care settings.
  • Build whole, healthy children, families and communities by supporting efforts to address historical trauma, adverse childhood experiences, social determinants of health, and substance abuse that create cycles of abuse, neglect and disparity.

Types of grants

The HCHN Fund will offer two funding options:

  • Core operation improvements grants for organizations whose existing work clearly aligns with the goals of the initiative but which need additional support to help advance or catalyze a specific element of their promising work. These one-year grants will provide flexible funding and capacity building to help boost Native organizations beyond a project-by-project focus.
  • Planning grants for organizations whose existing work clearly aligns with the goals of the initiative that would like to: (1) develop or expand one or more of the HCHN focus areas within their work; and/or (2) would like to explore new collaborations, partnerships and other strategies to increase the impact of their work may pursue a planning grant. These six-month grants will provide resources to think strategically, convene stakeholders, and produce a plan for a new project or program.

“This is an exceptionally well-researched and finely focused effort which I believe will have an outsized impact for vulnerable youth. I am so appreciative that the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations can be a partner to this nation-leading program,” said Dr. Eric J. Jolly, President and CEO of the Foundations. “We applaud the leadership that the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the Better Way Foundation have brought to this endeavor.”

The HCHN Fund is now accepting grant applications through the Foundations’ online portal through March 25, 2019, at 3 p.m. CST. Grants are available to both urban and reservation-based organizations and programs. Applicants must be a Native American-led organization, serve Native American children 0-6 years of age and/or their families in Minnesota, and work in one or more of the three HCHN focus areas. Grants awarded by the fund must be used exclusively for the benefit of Native children and communities in Minnesota.

About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is a federally recognized, sovereign Native American tribe located southwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Following a Dakota tradition of generosity, the SMSC is one of the top philanthropists in Minnesota and is the largest contributor to Native American tribes and causes across the country. It is a strong community partner and a leader in protecting and restoring natural resources. The SMSC’s government, Gaming Enterprise, and various other enterprises are collectively the largest employer in Scott County and attract millions of visitors to the region and attract millions of visitors to the region. More information is available at

About Seeds of Native Health

Seeds of Native Health is the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s philanthropic campaign to improve Native American nutrition and food access. Launched in 2015, the $10 million campaign has provided grants to local communities and funded research, education, and capacity-building efforts. Partners include the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Better Way Foundation, First Nations Development Institute, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, the Notah Begay III Foundation, the University of Arkansas School of Law’s Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, and the University of Minnesota. More information is available at

About Better Way Foundation

Started in 1988 by Gerald (Gerry) A. and Henrietta (Hanky) Rauenhorst, founders of the Opus Group, Better Way Foundation is focused on building a future where child well-being contributes to strong families and communities. Better Way Foundation invests in systemic, holistic, and evidence-based approaches that support the positive development of all children. Better Way Foundation supports both international and domestic partners, and has connected with exceptional community-based leaders investing in the lives of children and strengthening their communities. More information is available at

About Casey Family Programs

Casey Family Programs is the nation’s largest operating foundation focused on safely reducing the need for foster care and building Communities of Hope for children and families across America. Founded in 1966, we work in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and two territories and with more than a dozen tribal nations to influence long-lasting improvements to the safety and success of children, families and the communities where they live.

About the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations

We believe in the best of Minnesota and the power of its communities. With roots in Saint Paul and partners across the state, we are Minnesota’s largest community foundation and the partner of choice for thousands of donors, nonprofits and community organizations. We inspire generosity to make Minnesota better for all who call it home. Learn more at