The nonprofit organization Cooking Matters Colorado is partnering with the state’s Indigenous communities, including the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, to support food sovereignty and promote the overall health of these communities.
Cooking Matters Colorado helps people with limited food budgets learn how to purchase and prepare healthy, affordable meals. Through Indigenous partnerships, the organization hopes to offer its educational resources to support local, traditional food, and, in-turn, Indigenous health.
Shining Mountain Health and Wellness (SMHW)—a program within the Tribal Health department of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe—is one of Cooking Matters Colorado’s longest-standing Indigenous partnerships. Their goal is to provide training and resources necessary for SMHW staff to lead Cooking Matters programs within the Southern Ute community. In addition to covering topics like healthy menu planning and money-saving at the grocery store, these programs work to honor Indigenous food.
Darcy Parrillo, Rural Programs Manager for Cooking Matters Colorado, tells Food Tank, “We see the movement for food sovereignty as fundamental to a healthy food system on a local, state and national level.”
Food sovereignty prioritizes access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods that are controlled by the communities that grow them. Morgann Box, Program Manager at SMHW, says, “Eating the way our ancestors ate may help our physical health, but also our spiritual health.”
But according to Box and Parrillo, traditional foods often feel inaccessible to Indigenous communities in Colorado.
“We seek to encourage our Tribal Members to have knowledge of pre-colonial food and know how to modify those foods and techniques to best fit their lifestyle,” Box tells Food Tank. With the support of Cooking Matters Colorado, SMHW is working to help Indigenous food feel more accessible by educating its community about traditional ingredients and cooking methods available today.
Because of COVID-19, Cooking Matters Colorado can no longer offer in-person programs. But fortunately, the organization is continuing its work safely through online versions.
“The wisdom within Indigenous cooking is profound and vast,” says Parrillo. “The foundation of these foodways connects generations, people to their land, and to each other.”
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