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FEATURED CONTENT: A Native Perspective: Food Is More Than Consumption

2018-07-05

2015-1043-PhotoVoice-Vernon-500px-w1.JPG

Ana receives a sweet bun and McDonald's coffee upon her arrival home.

Vernon, R. V. (2015). A Native perspective: Food is more than consumption. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 5(4), 137–142. http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2015.054.024

Rachel V. Vernon, CoFED, the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive, Oakland, California

Keywords: Native American, Food Justice, Food Movement, Culture, Food Sovereignty

What my research found was that food cannot be disentangled from people and relationships; consuming, producing, and foraging for food all have meaning because they facilitate the streng­thening of community bonds. Some participants believed that eating “well” is not always about the nutrition of the food, that it has more meaning. Photo 1 highlights this idea. A quick or cursory look would suggest that this food means the person is not eating well, due to both the quality of the food and its potential effects on health and well-being….Too easily this image could be used to fuel a narrative of what is wrong with the food choices of Native people, placing the blame for health problems upon this community. However, there is an alternative reading of this image, one that tells a story of nourishment, relationships, and safety.

The hand in the photo belongs to the 82-year-old aunt of Ana, a participant who shared this picture during a focus group at the Intertribal Friendship House (IFH)….

I had to bring my car to IFH and leave it in the parking lot….And then, taking the BART and a bus home, and then the BART to the San Francisco Airport and then getting a red eye—it was just really exhausting and such a long journey. It felt so good to get to that airport and my aunt that I’m really close to, she’s 82. So that’s her there in the car and so she picked me up and she had brought me a sweet roll that another aunt had packed for me….So I just thought it was so sweet that my aunty making it the day before or something, and my other one [auntie] packing it and driving it about an hour to the airport and so it was already ready for me all packaged in the car. Then a senior priced coffee from McDonald’s. You know she got her discount or whatever and got it for me. So, I know it’s not healthy or something but it was, you know, just a meaningful moment and I really felt like I could totally relax at that moment. (Vernon, 2015, pp. 138–139)

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