Store Outside Your Door: Indigenous food and health for Alaska Native people

“Store Outside Your Door: Indigenous food and health for Alaska Native people”
By Gary Ferguson, ND (Unangan/Aleut), Community Health Services Senior Director, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) Store Outside Your Door (SOYD) Initiative focuses on the promotion of traditional and local foods by expanding on the concepts of hunting, fishing, gathering, and growing in Alaska. Our rural communities are often considered “food deserts,” if just comparing what is available in the local store. The SOYD program has been working, over the past nine years to educate and empower communities in the knowledge of how to live vibrantly off the bounty of the land around them. We highlight successful hunter, fisher, gatherers and help share elder wisdom that has helped our First People survive for thousands of years, in the oftentimes harsh landscape that many of our communities are located. Through workshops, written materials, social media, and webisodes, we are working with Alaska Native families so children can grow up with healthy, local foods. This addresses food security, its connections to chronic disease and also helps link traditional foods with reinforcing the wisdom in our many cultures and languages – thereby also promoting resilience. The SOYD initiative started with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded research project, “Helping Ourselves To Health,” where communities engaged through focus groups addressing food/nutrition security asked for more modern recipes utilizing traditional foods along with media that they could view on the TV and Internet. Our current focus is on developing maternal child health resources reinforcing traditional foods as first foods.

This presentation was made at the First Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition on September 26, 2016, in Prior Lake, Minnesota. This was the first-ever convening dedicated to integrating traditional, Indigenous knowledge and Western, academic research on the dietary health of Native Americans. It was sponsored by the University of Minnesota Healthy Foods Healthy Lives Institute and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC), and made possible through the SMSC’s Seeds of Native Health campaign to improve Native nutrition and food access. More information is available at