KESHENA, Wis. (WFRV) – The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, in partnership with Feeding Wisconsin, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, and the federally recognized Tribal Nations in Wisconsin, held a press conference on Thursday to talk about food sovereignty.

Among the initiatives discussed, the Tribal Elder Program was highly touted, which will provide roughly 25,000 boxes of locally sourced and strategically curated foods to elders of all 11 Tribes in 2022.

“As a former chairman, I had traveled the country and I saw tribes that really had their act together, they really had food sovereignty in mind,” said Gary Besaw of the Menominee Indian Tribe. “I was reminded by our elders that you don’t truly have sovereignty unless you can feed yourself.”

Officials with the Menominee Indian Tribe say that the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on their supplies and resources, making it hard to sustain sovereignty.

“We were struggling to try to find foods that we knew were a process to get good food to our elders,” said Besaw. “The food boxes, as much as we loved them that were coming from the government, just couldn’t be eaten by our elders.”

The long-term project the Menominee Indian Tribe is looking at is the potential for an indigenous agriculture cooperative.

“We need to look at a tribal food system that we control,” explained Besaw. “We know the foods that people can eat so we’re in that step right now and today we are completing the second year of the tribal elder food boxes.”

Stephanie Dorfman, Executive Director of Feeding Wisconsin explained just how impactful the Tribal Elder food boxes are.

“The program not only gets nutritious, locally, indigenously produced food, but it puts dollars in the hands of native and tribal producers,” said Dorfman. “It’s such a win-win on all fronts.”

Tribal Leaders say they plan to use every minute that they are here to continue t help others and do good work in the community.