New Mexico Appleseed’s Native American Community Engagement project (NACE), headed by Diné tribe member Chenoa Bah Stilwell-Jensen, arose from our commitment to working with low-income and underserved communities around the state to rectify racial, ethnic and socio-economic inequities manifesting themselves in the forms of food deserts and opportunity gaps.
Hunger and Obesity
Hunger, under-nutrition, and missed meals are well-documented problems for many Native American children throughout the year. While most school-aged Native American children do eat at least one meal a day during the school year, when school lets out, food insecurity skyrockets. As hunger and obesity are different sites of the same coin, Native American communities often struggle with obesity and diabetes, and these problems begin in youth. New Mexico Appleseed’s work increasing access to balanced USDA-funded meals combats both hunger and obesity and their impacts on children’s bodies and lives.
Only 30% of the Navajo population was part of the labor force in 2009. Suicide rates among Native American teens are out of control with as many as a dozen children in single communities committing suicide in clusters. There are few jobs and few opportunities to access higher education. New Mexico Appleseed’s innovative, first in the country Appleseed Fellowship will provide native youth with college/high school dual credit, mentorship, job opportunities and leadership experience to tee them up for success in life.
NACE partners with Native American communities to tailor New Mexico Appleseed’s existing programs to the needs of Native American communities creating a powerful anti-poverty antidote. NACE leverages New Mexico Appleseed’s deep knowledge of anti-hunger laws, regulations and best practices and our innovative Appleseed Fellowship to help communities on reservations make real and lasting changes. NACE’s specific demonstrable effects range from the immediate provision of meals that decrease food insecurity to long-term systemic impacts on health, educational outcomes, jobs, and the economy.