By Kimberly Burgess, Public Affairs Director, Southwest Region Food and Nutrition Service, Teresa Jackson, Tribal Partnership and Outcomes Partner and Stephany Parker, Program Planning and Evaluation Partner, Oklahoma Tribal Engagement Partners team
Oklahoma Tribal Engagement Partners, or OKTEP, collaborates with sovereign tribal nations and tribal organizations throughout Oklahoma to tailor SNAP-Ed programming to meet the needs of Native families. Over time, focus groups have expressed what matters to Natives: the need to be “real.” As organizations look to develop culturally relevant programming, we must step back and listen to what matters to families. We are in an era of change, an era where we are openly called to address inequities in our programming and practices. The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health called nutrition and health professionals to prioritize the role of nutrition and food security in overall health and ensure programs address the nutrition needs of all people.
OKTEP looks to families to identify what’s “real” to them, focusing on their nutrition and health concerns. We have learned from Native families that Westernized approaches have not always recognized the importance of traditional knowledge, ways, and practices. Parents and elders shared the need for youth education to lift up traditional values and knowledge. OKTEP puts cultural relevance at the forefront by developing materials and programs that align with traditional practices. In coordination with tribal nations and partners, we work to incorporate traditional ways of being active, uplift and include traditional foods as ingredients, and incorporate tribal language. Our collaborative efforts are built upon relationships cultivated over many years.
Eagle Adventure and Diabetes is Not Our Destiny are living programs honoring Native traditions. We prioritize Native knowledge and work with a Native owned marketing company to share stories of health that inspire strength and health for a lifetime. Though we still have work to do and changes to make, our goal is to ensure programs are getting “real.”