Supporting Indigenous Diets is for Everyone, Says Daniels – Food Tank
Native Hawaiian foods are rising through the asphalt, says Paula Daniels, co-founder and chef of What’s Next of the Good Food Purchase Program. And as a registered native Hawaiian, Daniels uses the Good Food Purchase Program to push public institutions to support various food producers in their purchases.
“Part of what our Good Food Buying Program is designed to do is create opportunities for small and medium farmers” with diverse farming practices, Daniels says. The Good Food Purchasing Program provides a metrics-based framework for institutions to show and improve how they are using their purchasing power across their supply chains. The categories of the framework include values for nutrition, animal welfare, a valued workforce, environmental sustainability and local economies.
“We focus on the equity and inclusion of small farms, minorities, disadvantaged communities, Native American communities and more in our program,” says Daniels. “We will continue to work to make sure these supply chains become more robust all the time.”
By creating markets for small and medium-sized farmers, Daniels believes the food system can support a diversity of people, including native Hawaiians who have seen their lives transformed by unsafe food system practices in the past. “Hawaii was once a self-sufficient island nation. It has fed a population of almost a million people in a non-urbanized environment, with a very important stewardship model, ”says Daniels. “The organizational unit of their systems was called the ahupua’a, which was a unit of governance that flowed from mountains to oceans, along the watershed. They were taking care of this particular watershed and the whole ecosystem. “
However, Daniels notes that the sugar agribusiness has disrupted this pattern, bringing intense monoculture practices to the islands. With this change, Hawai’i lost not only its government in 1893, but also much of its subsistence farming community and biodiversity. Daniels notes that with this loss, Hawai’i was forced to import nearly 95 percent of its food from the continental United States, a percentage that is declining with local Hawaiian efforts to reclaim their agricultural self-reliance.
Daniels will speak at the Food Tank’s Summit, The wisdom of Indigenous diets January 22 in partnership with the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University. On stage, Daniels will talk about how supply chains have changed Indigenous diets in Hawai’i, but also their potential to support these diets in the future.
“Hawai’i is now aiming to have 30 percent of its food production local,” Daniels says. “But he must undo the harsh landscape of monoculture agriculture and the sugar legacy and must rework the infrastructure towards a diverse cropping system that would feed the people of Hawai’i.”
Hawaiians have allowed a resurgence of affinity for native biodiverse cultures. “Among them is kalo, or taro; ‘uala or sweet potato; and ‘ulu, or the breadfruit tree. These crops are the three brothers of Hawaiian agriculture because they work well together, ”not only in sustainable agriculture but also for human health, Daniels says. “Among the three, there is a complete nutritious diet. “
Empowering Hawaiians to grow heirloom crops and livestock with higher nutritional value than imports is especially important to the health of the community. According to Daniels, the rate of cardiometabolic disorders in the Hawaiian population is disproportionately high. “This is directly due to the loss of the right to food… Easy and affordable access is junk food,” says Daniels.
This loss of the right to feed and the erasure of small farmers is not only an indigenous community problem, but a global concern as the impact of agriculture on the environment emerges. Daniels notes that protecting the planet requires the integration of indigenous values for the diversity and balance of ecosystems in modern society. “The more we believe these are valuable to all, the more health we can offer our planet and the more health and fun we can offer for all,” Daniels said.
“Creating a new economy around food is just important for the entire food system,” says Daniels. “We need to think about the fairness and diversity of this supply chain and be inclusive of who is supported in new economic policies. “