Pinole Blue, an organic blue corn company in Wichita, Kansas, is working to support Indigenous communities in Chihuahua, Mexico while promoting traditional Mexican and Indigenous foods.
The company sells pinole, a mixture of ground maize and cacao beans, that is known for its nutrition properties, such as high levels of carbohydrates, protein, and antioxidants. They also sell tortillas made from blue corn, which contains higher amounts of antioxidants and fiber than white corn.
Growing up, Eddie Sandoval, founder of Pinole Blue, regularly visited Chihuahua and often ate pinole. But he noticed that a few stores sell it in his area today. Hoping to introduce more people to the mixture, Sandoval launched the business in 2017 from his garage.
“We’re trying to make healthy, organic food for everyone,” Sandoval tells Food Tank.
In addition to selling pinole and tortillas, Pinole Blue also strives to support the Rarámuri, an Indigenous community in the Sierra Madre Occidental. Some members of the community are known for their ability to run long distances.
The Rarámuri rely on the environment to practice a traditional lifestyle, such as making their own clothes and raising their own food. But droughts caused by deforestation and climate change could threaten their livelihood. Other factors, like mineral extraction and local drug traffickers, also present a danger to the community.
“My family is from Chihuahua, so my entire life I’ve seen how the community has struggled,” says Sandoval. “I wanted to find a way to give back.”
Pinole Blue is donating a portion of its earnings to the Rarámuri community. The company also partners with the county commissioner in Chihuahua to conduct food drives and provide clothing and other basic necessities to the Rarámuri. In October, the company provided food to 92 families. Additionally, Pinole Blue sponsors María Lorena Ramírez, a 24-year-old long-distance runner from the community.
Pinole Blue is also working with businesses to support other Indigenous communities in the United States. During the early months of the pandemic, Pinole Blue donated food to displaced workers and partnered with a restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona to distribute food and other materials to the Navajo Nation.
“It was pretty cool to see two cultures use similar products and eat similar foods,” says Sandoval.
Sandoval tells Food Tank that Pinole Blue was also “hit hard during the early months of the pandemic.” But, they created an account on the social media platform TikTok. Within months, Sandoval says they were able to engage more customers and improve their online sales.
“During the pandemic, people want comfort food,” says Sandoval. “The Latinx and the Hispanic community saw our products and remembered having it as a kid.”
As Pinole Blue continues promoting the products online, Sandoval hopes that he can connect more people with what he calls “heritage superfoods.”
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash, Sunira Moses
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