- Author: Jennifer Sowerwine
UC partnership with Karuk, Yurok, and Klamath Tribes in Klamath Basin improves family and community food security, community health and well-being, and tribal food sovereignty. In a Basin-wide evaluation, 65% felt the community was more food secure.
Tribes in the Klamath River Basin are among the poorest and most food insecure in the US despite great ecological diversity and a history of plentiful foods including salmon, deer, elk, acorns, mushrooms, and berries. Commercial fishing, mining, clear-cut logging, fire suppression, dams, and industrial agriculture coupled with decades of forced assimilation have disrupted traditional food systems and intergenerational sharing of cultural food information and skills. The majority of the tribal population (64%) depends on food assistance yet 80% of those still worry about their next meal. Most foods in the region are imported and provided by outside businesses and limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables as well as traditional foods has led to high rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and depression. Yet the communities are actively engaged in transforming their food system to be more healthy, culturally relevant and resilient.
How UC Delivers
Using a community-led planning process and building on relationships of trust, UCCE academics and partners from the Karuk, Yurok, and Klamath Tribes and a local community based organization secured funding from 2012-2018 for research and improvements to food security across the three tribes' ancestral territories in California and Oregon. With funding from the United States Department of Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (USDA-AFRI) Food Security program, tribal and community-led food security workshops focused food sovereignty efforts seeking to strengthen subsistence skills including canning, baking, butchering, drip irrigation, fruit tree pruning, and seed saving. A focus on restoring cultural foodways included seasonal youth camps, connecting elders with youth, and inter-tribal youth exchange. Two new community gardens and six greenhouses were established and more than eight orchards were revitalized. Six tribal Master Gardeners were trained and several agricultural bulletins were created to offer residents regionally-relevant information to support access to fresh produce through an extended growing season. A new K-12 Native Foods Curriculum supports cultural learning and STEM skills in six local schools. Three dissertations share findings on key food plants and traditional land management, a digital library houses tribal cultural food information, and two tribal herbaria supports classroom education and future indigenous plant research. Over the course of six years nearly 17,500 participants -- with many of them repeat participants -- benefited from over 3,000 workshops, events, community discussions, meetings, and other activities.
“The community gardens, better maintained trees and food preservation all work together to create a culture where it is cool to eat local food. It is a source of pride at potlucks. Gardening and fresh fruit is available, and children understand where their food is coming from. I feel like there is less division and we are more unified. The relationships that have been created from the program are good.”
-Tribal food security participant
After six years, Klamath Basin residents have new skills, resources, and networks to improve family and community food security, community health and well-being, and tribal food sovereignty. In a Basin-wide evaluation, 77% of respondents said they had learned something new from Food Security activities; 67% had tried out new skills at home; 65% felt the community was more food secure; and 81% said the programs have changed the community in other positive ways. The Karuk Tribe's new Pikyav Field Institute continues food security programming and improves college readiness for Native youth. The Klamath Tribes' new community kitchen will support ongoing food security activities. Partners have leveraged project successes, securing over $4.6M for expanded project work related to developing an inclusive and equitable society by building climate resilient Native American communities and agro-ecosystems, improving Native American food security through increased community access to native foods, and increasing ecological sustainability of forested landscapes that provide cultural foods and fibers. In this way, UC ANR partners with the community to improve food security, contributing to the public value of safeguarding abundant and healthy food for all Californians.
For more information on the project activities and outcomes, please visit the Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative website.