No Kid Hungry
Danielle Antelope grew up in Montana surrounded by a close-knit community of friends and family in the Blackfeet Reservation that instilled in her the love for her land and culture.
But many members of the community, including her family, faced challenges with food access. Danielle’s mother applied for food stamps and the commodities program for native households. They were denied—and they missed the mark by less than $10.
“This did not mean that we were food secure. It meant that my mom had to choose cheaper foods to make sure that we were able to get full,” she shares, highlighting how these meals were not always the most nourishing. “Income-based food-assistance programs failed my family.”
Today, Antelope serves as executive director of FAST Blackfeet (Food Access and Sustainability Team Blackfeet), a No Kid Hungry partner providing nutrition education and support to families in the Blackfeet tribe, where the food-insecurity rate is 67 percent. “Over half of our community members are hungry and don’t have access to healthy foods daily,” says Antelope, who is part Blackfeet, part Eastern Shoshone. “We provide food, we teach about food, and then we also connect people with food.”
“We don't ask about income at all. That is a comfort for our participants and for their children,” Antelope notes. “When we’re able to root back Blackfeet people to when we were healthy eaters, it makes it more relevant to the community member to be like, I’m Blackfeet, Blackfeet were healthy people, and that’s what we can return to.”
Here, in honor of Native Heritage Month, we chat with Antelope about her heritage, the FAST Blackfeet impact and the importance of reconnecting individuals with their roots and culture through traditional cuisine and customs.
Tell us about FAST Blackfeet…
We are a nonprofit that focuses on aiding in food insecurity, nutrition education and food sovereignty. We do this through the need-based Ō’yō’·ṗ’ Food Pantry, a nutrition education program that focuses on traditional recipes and nutrition therapy, and the Growing Health Program, which focuses on gardening and harvesting projects as well as bison harvests.
It’s very important to be able to customize—we use the word indigenize—the programs we offer to be culturally relevant to our community. When we teach about protein, we’re using buffalo and wild game. That’s what helps our members retain more information, when it’s relevant to them.
Could you share an anecdote about FAST Blackfeet’s impact?
We have a pantry participant who comes weekly. She’s an elderly lady and takes it upon herself to drive her neighbors—on both sides—to the pantry with her because they don’t have the transportation. One of her neighbors is a grandmother, who sends her 12-year-old grandson. When we see these three neighbors come in every week, we know that the 12-year-old is in charge of choosing the foods for his siblings and his grandmother, who raises them. It’s emotional to see the way that the pantry supports these families that have no other food assistance in the community.
What challenges does the Blackfeet community face?
Our challenges are very similar to tribal nations across the country. They’re rooted from poverty, and this was purposely done to us. We were put on reservations to be poor and to stay poor, and part of poverty is food insecurity. When we lose land access, we lose food access.
The importance of ensuring no kid is hungry…
Kids are our future. They’re going to create opportunities. They’re going to recognize gaps and create solutions for those gaps. Our kids are the key to seeing our community be a healthier nation altogether.
What makes you proud about the Blackfeet Nation?
1. The people. My grandmothers were raised here, and they’re connected to the land here and the people here. My son’s grandparents are here.
2. The place—it’s important for us to be on our traditional territory, to have that connection to the land.
3. The culture and seeing it alive today—people practicing ceremonies, eating traditional foods, learning about the history and then utilizing that to make brighter futures for future generations.
What would you like people to understand about native culture?
It’s important to know the traumas that lay with native communities. A lot of people think that natives are gone, that we were here and now we’re gone. And we’re not. It’s hard to be seen as a person of color when people don't believe that there are natives.
No matter where you live, no matter where you come from—that’s native land. There are tribes who call that home. The Blackfeet are on their traditional territory, but many reservations today are not. They were forced there. We stay on reservations because that’s where our people are, and our families are the center of who we are and why we do the things we do.
Veronica Beard is partnering with No Kid Hungry to help end childhood hunger. For every purchase on veronicabeard.com between 10/1/23 and 12/21/23, $5 will be donated to No Kid Hungry with a minimum guarantee of $300,000. Learn more here.