We’re excited to host this interactive conference about strategies to increase access to healthy, culturally-appropriate foods. We’ll have a combination of live and pre-recorded presentations on our conference agenda, some online workshops, as well as discussion boards for you to interact with your fellow conference participants and our presenters. One of the benefits of having this conference in a completely virtual format, apart from being able to participate from your home or office, are that the recordings will be available for you to access online whenever you’re available. Check our proposed agenda here to see what sessions you'll be able to attend live -- our schedule is in Pacific Standard Time.

Conference Program


8:30 am - 9:00 am 

Welcome [live]

Blessing from Carlos Gonzales [live]

Keynote from Winona LaDuke [live]

9:00 am - 9:30 am 

Vicky Karhu, "Community Food Sovereignty Assessment" [recorded]

> Presentation synopsis: This presentation is an introduction to how to conduct a Community Food Sovereignty Assessment as a way to realize and document the food and diet-related health story of a community through a community-driven and participatory process of information gathering. During this presentation, you will learn the basic seven steps for conducting a Community Food Sovereignty Assessment and using the information to improve and strengthen public health and local food systems.

> ​Speaker biography: Vicky Karhu is an independent consultant working with First Nations Development Institute, the University of Arkansas School of Law Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, and tribal projects nationwide in the areas of community organizing, food sovereignty work, and compliance with the new Food Safety Modernization Act. She is the Founding Director of Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative in Okmulgee, Oklahoma and has worked with Indigenous Peoples for over 30 years. Vicky lives near Taos, New Mexico where she serves as Board President for the Red Willow Farm and Center on Taos Pueblo and operates an organic market garden with one of her sons.

9:30 am - 10:00 am

Tristan Reader, “Community-Based Planning & Evaluation for Wellness” [recorded]

> Presentation synopsis: Tristan Reader will introduce strategies for involving the community when planning public health projects and programs, and share the experiences of Tohono O’odham Community Action in creating a common vision, formulating effective strategies, and providing evaluative standards for a healthy Tohono O’odham community.

> Speaker biography: Tristan Reader is Assistant Professor of Practice in the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona (UA). Prior to joining the UA faculty, Tristan was Co-Founder and Co-Director (with Terrol Dew Johnson) of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA) for nearly two decades. There, he partnered with hundreds of community members to develop a broad set of food sovereignty programs aimed at promoting public health, cultural revitalization, community empowerment, and sustainable economic development.  He is a joint-recipient of the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World Award, helped found Native Foodways magazine, and serves on the Leadership Council of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance. Tristan has written more than 20 articles and book chapters on Native American food sovereignty, and is currently completing his PhD at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University (UK).

10:00 am - 10:40 am

Terrol Dew Johnson and Tristan Reader, "Tohono O’odham Food Sovereignty: Moving Mountains” [recorded]

> Presentation synopsis: In this presentation, Terrol Dew Johnson discusses traditional Tohono O’odham food production, recent efforts to strengthen Tohono O’odham food sovereignty, and the intersection between food sovereignty, cultural revitalization, and community health. 

> ​Speaker biography: Terrol Johnson is a community leader, nationally recognized advocate for Native communities, and renowned artist. He is President and CEO of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), a grassroots community organization he co-founded in 1996. TOCA is dedicated to creating positive programs based in the O’odham Himdag – the Desert People’s Way. In 2002, Terrol and TOCA Co-Director Tristan Reader were recognized as one of the nation’s top leadership teams when they received the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World Award. In October 1999, Terrol was named one of “America’s top ten young community leaders” by the Do Something Foundation. In 2009-10, Terrol walked from Maine to Arizona to bring awareness to the crisis of diabetes in Native communities, highlighting the ways in which communities have the capacity to create wellness by drawing upon their rich cultural traditions. As an artist, Terrol began learning to weave baskets in school when he was just ten years old. He is now recognized as one of the top Native American basketweavers in the U.S. His work is in the permanent collections of museums such as the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) and the Heard Museum. 

10:45 am - 11:05 am  

Live Q & A: Tristan Reader and Terrol Dew Johnson [live]

> Come talk to Tristan Reader and Terrol Dew Johnson about their experiences at Tohono O’odham Community Action!

11:05 am - 12:00 pm   Break
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Workshop: Using Logic Models for Program Planning and Evaluation [live]

> This workshop, led by the Western Region Public Health Training Center, will discuss setting program goals and objectives with S.M.A.R.T. attributes, determining indicators for evaluation, and using a logic model to present a program.

1:10 pm - 1:35 pm  

Cherie Thunder, Trinaty Caldwell, Miranda Washinawatok, and Maria Moreno, “Digging into Food Sovereignty: A Student Led Exploration”

> The Sustainability Leadership Cohort (SLC) took action to bring awareness of the need to reclaim our food sovereignty as a community. The students learned from community members the uses for many plants in the forest. They conducted interviews with foresters and traditional knowledge holders to gain a new perspective of the forest and the reciprocal relationship that must take place. The students became knowledgeable about how to organize their communities as well as what other tribes and institutions are doing to combat the issue of food deserts. They also took part in an agricultural research project comparing the use of traditional Menominee practices to the more recent methods. The SLC wrote a scientific research paper reporting the data they collected over the course of four weeks. With the experience gained throughout their time in the SLC, the group produced and edited a documentary. The documentary focuses on promoting food sovereignty and community wellness in Menominee.

1:45 pm - 2:00 pm

Interview with San Xavier Co-op Farm [recorded]

> The San Xavier Co-op Farm, on the Tohono O’odham Nation’s San Xavier reservation, has been working to revive farming and improve community health since the 1970s. Michael Morales and Phyllis Valenzuela showed us around the farm and spoke with us about its evolution and impact.



8:30 am - 9:05 am 

Sonlatsa Jim-Martin, “COPE Food Access & Food Policy Initiatives with the Navajo Nation” [recorded]

> Presentation synopsis: COPE strives to promote healthy, prosperous, and empowered Native communities through three collaborative approaches: 1) robust, community-based outreach; 2) local capacity building and system-level partnerships; and 3) increasing access to healthy foods. COPE promotes access to healthy foods and beverages in Navajo Nation by increasing community awareness of Navajo food policy and food traditions. We are focused on a range of efforts, including supporting the formation of local and regional Food Policy Councils and Wellness Councils, connecting community members on Diné Food Traditions and Farm to School initiatives, and mentoring high school youth on food literacy and communications. Our “Water First!” campaign, funded by the NB3 Foundation, promotes increased consumption of safe drinking water instead of sugar sweetened beverages, and includes steps to increase access to safe drinking water among Navajo families with preschool children and empower these families to shift toward healthier choices to help overcome obesity.

> Speaker biography: Sonlatsa “Sunshine” Jim-Martin is Navajo-Modoc enrolled in the Navajo Nation. She is of the Sleeping Rock Clan and born for the Modoc Tribe. Her maternal grandfather is of the Salt Clan. She was raised on and lives on the Navajo Reservation in Tohlakai, NM. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from the Colorado College and is working on a Master’s Degree in Public Administration/Public Health. She serves as a leadership coach for the NCHO Youth Leadership Program under the direction of Rex Lee Jim. Currently, she leads food justice efforts through Navajo food policy advocacy and drinking water access on the Navajo Nation in partnership with the Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic, NM Farm to Table, Diné Food Sovereignty Alliance, NB3 Foundation, and Navajo tribal leaders. 

9:15 am - 9:50 am 

Merrill Eisenberg, “Community Based Policy Development: Lessons from the Field" [recorded]

> Presentation synopsis: This presentation will help public health advocates understand the policy making process at the state and local levels and to use this understanding to plan policy action to benefit the public’s health.

> Speaker biography: Merrill Eisenberg, PhD, is an applied anthropologist, retired from the University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health faculty in 2012. She has been engaged with local and state policy processes regarding public health issues including women’s health, local health planning, disability rights, tobacco control, and urban agriculture.

10:00 am - 10:30 am

Denisa Livingston and Danny Simpson, “Healthy Diné Nation Initiative: Empowering Our Communities” [recorded] 

> Presentation synopsis:  This presentation will provide information about the background, process, and future of the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014, the elimination of 5% tax on healthy foods, the Community Development Projects Fund Management Plan, and the Healthy Diné Community Wellness Development Project Guideline and Distribution Policy.

> Speaker biographies: Denisa Livingston (Diné [Navajo]) is currently one of ten 2016-2017 Empowered-to-Serve National Ambassadors for the American Heart Association. Denisa is a community health advocate for the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance (DCAA). She is committed to addressing the diabetes epidemic, the dominant culture of unhealthy foods, and the lack of healthy food access on the Navajo Nation.

Mr. Danny Simpson is a member of the Navajo Nation and from the community of Huerfano, New Mexico. He served twelve consecutive years as an elected Council Delegate for the Navajo Nation. He has committed his life to represent and lead the Navajo people. His service has not only impacted the local communities, but the nation as a whole. He has partnered with Diné Community Advocacy Alliance, addressing the health crisis of diabetes and obesity while advocating for healthy opportunities. 

10:40 am - 11:00 am

Live Q & A: Merrill Eisenberg, Denisa Livingston, and Danny Simpson [live]

> Come talk to Merrill Eisenberg, Denisa Livingston, and Danny Simpson about developing policies to improve community health and increase food access and all things advocacy!

11:00 am - 12:00 pm   Break
12:00 pm - 1:15 pm

Workshop: Policy Briefs as an Advocacy Tool [live]

> This workshop, led by the Western Region Public Health Training Center, will introduce how to use policy briefs as an advocacy tool and key components to include when writing a policy brief. 

1:30 pm - 1:45 pm

Interview with Clayton Harvey [recorded]

> Clayton Harvey (White Mountain Apache) talks about Ndee Bikiyaa, the People’s Farm, at Fort Apache. Ndee Bikiyaa is a sustainable farming project meant to foster access to healthy and traditional foods, as a way of preventing diabetes and connecting the community to their traditions.


8:30 am - 9:15 am 

Video & Panel Discussion: Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance [live]

> Presentation synopsis: Watch a short video introducing the 10 themes of Indigenous food sovereignty, followed by a panel discussion with a few members of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance Leadership Council.

9:15 am - 9:30 am 

Native Seeds/SEARCH [live]

> Presentation synopsis: Hear from Melissa Kruse-Peoples about Native Seeds/SEARCH, a non-profit focused on agricultural biodiversity and food security, about their programs to improve community food security and conserve traditional crops. 

9:30 am - 10:00 am

Daryl Melvin, “Eight Steps for Developing a Program Budget” [recorded]

> Presentation synopsis:  This presentation takes a broad approach to developing an understanding how to create a budget and the key steps to apply in a budget process. The presentation is intended for all levels of program staff and highlights at the core of budget creation is an organization’s mission. This training will assist participants to recognize mission alignment and outcomes, with budget creation. The presentation uses narrative elements with participants to discuss budgeting elements.

> Speaker biography: With an expertise in partnering with tribal nations and the public sector in healthcare, engineering and leadership, Daryl Melvin is passionate about providing rural communities with the tools and expertise necessary to develop and implement initiatives that are in alignment with their community values. He is committed to empowering communities to build healthy and strong economies. Daryl established Melvin Consulting PLLC to provide organizations with strategy development and specialized technical assistance to navigate the complexities within the fields of engineering and healthcare. He is a licensed Professional Engineer with a Public Health Post Graduate Certification. Learn more at

10:00 am - 11:00 am

Workshop: Dealing with Budget Changes  [live]

> This workshop, led by the Western Region Public Health Training Center, will focus on program budgets and will provide practice at modifying budgets to develop new projects.

11:00 am - 12:00 pm   Break
12:00 pm - 1:15 pm  

Becky Pearson, “The How We Eat Study: A community science approach to changing the food conversation” [live]

> Presentation synopsis:  How We Eat (HWE) is a web-based, qualitative study designed to help community health professionals, academics, and the public understand more about how we eat – and about how to move closer to how we want to eat. Community science (aka citizen science) invites the general public to participate as co-researchers, in this case from survey design to data interpretation and sharing. Initial study components will include brief, open-ended surveys, a pictorial food diary, and a grocery receipt analysis. An additional component, How We Eat HERE (HWEH), will support personnel in clinics, community agencies, schools, and other settings to explore organizational-level food norms, values, choices, and opportunities. Participants will 1) learn practical ways to conduct qualitative community food research and use findings from it, 2) have an opportunity to help design study components surrounding Native American health and food sovereignty, and 3) receive pilot study information and materials.

Kalei K-aloha, Marie Kainoa Fialkowski, Kealoha Fox, and Kaiulani Odom, “Archived Hawaiiwan Language Newspapers Recounting Poi ‘Awa’awa use Among Native Hawaiians’ Traditional Diet” [live]

> Presentation synopsis:  The Traditional Hawaiian Diet (THD) consisted mainly of complex carbohydrate foods including kalo (taro). Poi is an ancient staple where fresh kalo is steamed and mashed with water until the consistency is smooth. One form is poi ‘awa‘awa (fermented poi) which was traditionally eaten for its probiotic health and immunity benefits. However, the THD practice of consuming it has declined. Scientific literature publishing poi ‘awa'awa and its health benefits are limited. The objective of this research utilized the Hawaiian language newspapers to identify THD practices documenting poi ‘awaʻawa prior to 1900. Using this search term, 11 archived articles provided poi 'awa'awa descriptions. Differing translated results implied eating poi 'awa'awa as beneficial while other articles indicated consumption resulted in sickness. This research will inform future efforts to better understand poi 'awa'awa as a THD practice among Native Hawaiians to provide scientific and cultural nutrition resources.

Pamela Mukaire, “Local Women Fighting Child Malnutrition with Improved Complementary Food Using Traditional Porridge in rural Uganda” [live]

> Presentation synopsis:  In rural Uganda, child and maternal malnutrition remains a major health problem. One out of three children in Uganda is stunted and 15 percent of all child mortality cases are associated with under-nutrition. In 2015, nutritional and food inventory assessment in 400 households in three rural communities in eastern Uganda, revealed that nearly all the recommended child diets and related practices were not playing out in homes. Presented with the findings about their communities, a group of 8 self-mobilized women leaders from 8 villages responded initiating the Maama Baby Initiative. With a $600 initial fund, the women have formulated a supplementary feeding flour mixed from different blends of rice, beans, malted millet, soybean of nutritious and cheap locally grown foods. This story is one of technology uptake by women in the processing of their own porridge blend and feeding them to their community’s children. Initiative impact and lessons learned will be shared. 

1:30 pm - 1:45 pm

Interview with Manzo Elementary Ecology [recorded]

> We speak with Blue Baldwin, Program Manager of Manzo Ecology, about “the greenest elementary school on the planet.” Learn about how their chickens, aquaponics, composting, vegetables gardens, and fruit tree propagation projects are integrated into classroom curriculum and used to improve student behavioral, mental, and physical health in this Title I school.

1:50 pm - 2:00 pm   Closing