WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2015 -- The University of Arkansas School of Law’s Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative is formulating a comprehensive set of model food and agricultural codes to be customized and adopted by Indian tribes in an effort to fight obesity, diabetes and other nutritional health problems that affect Native Americans at disproportionate rates compared to other ethnic groups.

Collaborating on the project are the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, according to a news release. SMSC’s leading gift of $250,000 through its Seeds of Native Health campaign and MAZON’s gift of $50,000 through its Rural and Remote Initiative will support the first phase of the anticipated three-year project.

“Food sovereignty is a central component to build a culture of dietary health for Native Americans,” SMSC Chairman Charlie Vig said. “We are thrilled by this opportunity to work with the University of Arkansas and MAZON to empower Native nations to reclaim their own food policies.”

The project will be led by Janie Simms Hipp, director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative and former USDA senior adviser for tribal relations. Hipp founded USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations, was a National Program Leader at the department’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, and served two terms on the agriculture secretary’s Advisory Committee for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers.

The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative was created by Stacy Leeds, dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law – the first female and only current American Indian law school dean – and focuses on multi-disciplinary research, service, and education opportunities that directly support the Native American community. 

“Food and agriculture codes will be an invaluable guide for tribal leaders as they work to improve the health of their people,” Leeds said. “The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative is proud to partner with the SMSC and MAZON.”


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