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Meeting basic needs in a South Dakota Native American community

Key Points

  • Marginalized communities, such as the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, face challenges in accessing healthy food, contributing to low life expectancy rates. Volunteers from Chicago aimed to counter this by sharing their organic produce harvest with the residents, partnering with the local nonprofit Lakota Circle to foster relationships.
  • Chicago volunteers packaged and delivered a variety of vegetables to South Dakota, covering an 850-mile journey. Along with the produce, over 150 small hats were sent to support local children facing freezing temperatures during winter. The hats, knitted by graduates of the vocational training program, aimed to address health challenges and improve school attendance.
  • The initiative not only provided fresh food to the Pine Ridge residents but also supported the Chicago volunteers’ goal of addressing food inequity. The collaboration showcased a sustainable solution that brought together two communities, fostering lasting bonds and mutual benefits in addressing pressing challenges.
24 January 2016
Main topic
Food, Water & Shelter
Related topics
Food, Water & Shelter Humanitarian

Many people in marginalized communities across the United States struggle to access healthy food. The Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota is classified as a “food desert,” and members of the Native American reservation have the lowest life expectancy rate in the United States. In an attempt to counter this inequity, our volunteers in Chicago decided to share their harvest with the South Dakota residents, as well as provide hats for children to keep them warm in the winter months.

At our mid-western center in Chicago, Illinois, fields of organic produce are lovingly grown each season. This year, green beans, carrots, sunflower seeds and many other vegetables were plentiful. With the desire to share this bounty, our volunteers packaged the produce and delivered it to South Dakota, many miles away. We partnered with a local nonprofit Lakota Circle to help foster the relationship with the residents.

Man holds up beans from the farm

After the crop was harvested, one of our volunteers enthusiastically packed his car full of vegetables, setting off on an 850-mile, and more than 12 hour drive to South Dakota. Included with the delivery was a letter from our volunteers, which said “We humbly offer this gift of fresh food from our Amrita Farms to you. May the blessing of Mother Earth sustain you. May we form a lasting bond of friendship across the miles.”

Man loads groceries into car

In another move to provide support for the community, we also sent over 150 small hats for the local children. The temperatures in the winter reach below freezing on the reservation. Due to the severe weather, many children struggle to attend school and are frequently ill. Survivors of the 2013 Uttarakhand flooding in northern India, who are now graduates of our vocational training program, knit the warm hats for the children. Similar to our Warming Hearts and Hands project, we were able to bring together two struggling communities to find sustainable solutions to some of their most pressing problems, in ways that mutually benefitted both.

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