The plight of Native Americans over the last few centuries has been well documented, but it’s still startling to think that a people so traditionally tied to agriculture now struggles greatly against food insecurity. American Indians and Alaska Natives are now almost twice as likely (39.4 percent) as white Americans (24.3 percent) to be obese, a byproduct of poverty, practices that have gradually moved away from growing food, and an overall lack of infrastructure on many tribal lands.
A recent study found that only 16 percent of Native Americans have a healthful diet, something agriculture lawyer and member of the Chickasaw Nation Janie Simms Hipp says is a food access problem.
“When you are living in a community where 80 percent of the people are unemployed and no one can afford to put in food outlets, you get in a car with other people and you drive 100 miles off-reservation to get food,” Hipp told TakePart in 2012. “You can’t make that drive every day, so you are going to, by definition, pick up as many foods as you can that have as long a shelf life as possible.”
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