By: Ona Balkus, FLPC Clinical Fellow, and Rosana Aragon-Plaza, L.L.M. ‘15
In May 2015, attorneys and students from the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) travelled to the Navajo Nation to launch Good Laws, Good Food: Putting Food Policy to Work in the Navajo Nation. This policy toolkit provides community food advocates and government officials an overview of food laws and policies that impact the food environment in the Navajo Nation.
FLPC began to conduct research and develop this toolkit in the summer of 2013 following a visit to the Navajo Nation and discussions with Dr. Sonya Shin from the Community Outreach & Patient Empowerment Program (COPE), staff from the Navajo Division of Health, and then-Vice President Rex Lee Jim. Partnering with COPE and working closely with COPE’s REACH Food Coalition and other Navajo stakeholders over two years, FLPC compiled research, best practices, and first-hand experiences and perspectives to provide what we hope will be a true resource for the Navajo Nation as it works towards the goals of increasing health, sustainability, and food sovereignty.
During our May visit, FLPC attorneys and students had the opportunity to exchange ideas with Navajo Nation food advocates, local government members, and youth leaders. We met with food sovereignty leaders and activists from the Diné Food Sovereignty Alliance (DSNA), who shared with us insights and wisdom on indigenous thinking and Navajo fundamental law. DSNA members helped us present on Navajo food ways and food policy at other events throughout the week. These included a public workshop at the Navajo Technical University which brought in food advocates, Navajo leaders, educators, students, and community members. Workshop attendees held lively discussions, identifying priority areas in food policy and debating the strategies that could be used to address them.
We also had the opportunity to present at a meeting of the Health, Education and Human Services Committee of the Navajo Nation Council at the Sheep Springs Chapter House. In addition to presenting, we learned more about health issues impacting the Navajo Nation, and local food issues shared by Sheep Springs community members. Last but certainly not least, we met with students and parents involved in the Navajo Community Health Outreach (NCHO) Youth Leadership program, and discussed the specific food-related challenges faced by young adults and families in the Navajo Nation.
Our generous hosts also opened their homes and kitchens to us. We had the opportunity to try traditional Navajo dishes and visit important landmarks on Navajo Nation, learning more about Navajo culture and lifestyle in an informal and relaxed atmosphere.
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The views reflected in this blog are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation or Harvard Law School. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.