Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

Grinding Stone Collective Inc.

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What is the name of your solution?

Indigenous Ecological Knowledge & First Foods

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Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

We combat indigenous food insecurity by providing free traditional foods and food justice education to natives living in rural and urban spaces.

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Film your elevator pitch.

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What specific problem are you solving?

Indigenous food insecurity is a long-standing, widespread, and growing issue on Turtle Island. From the original forced displacement of natives in the 1800s on the Trail of Tears to the underwhelming support given to native territories during the Covid-19 pandemic, food insecurity has always disproportionately affected indigenous people. The Earth's changing climate has already caused significant devastation to the environment. Dangerous issues such as water insecurity and reduced agricultural yields in places like Colorado further increase the risk of wildfires; an issue the world has watched unfold catastrophically in 2020. Additionally, the global economy continues to destabilize due to the effects of job loss, automation, outsourcing, and crashing housing markets, making it harder than ever for native populations to maintain proper nutrition. 

Colonial systems of oppression disproportionately affect us at a nearly quadruple rate of any other ethnic minorities. The Native American Agriculture Fund reported that during the COVID-19 pandemic 54% of natives said they often couldn't afford to eat balanced meals, 48% could not keep maintaining their food stock, 37% had to cut down or skip meals and 34% ate less because they could not afford to buy new food. Even in densely populated and wealthy cities like New York, there are already 1.1 million food-insecure residents (or 12.9% of the population), with the city having a total food insecurity rate that is 12% higher than the national average; compare that to the fact that one in four indigenous people are food insecure, or twice the total national rate, we see that this is a crisis of epic proportions. 

We need to address the specific causes of food insecurity such as indigenous displacement, climate change, environmental racism, lack of land sovereignty, lack of traditional agricultural knowledge, lack of foraging knowledge, lack of access to traditional foods, and the continued encroachment of the settler state into indigenous occupied regions.

Indigenous people have always stood at the frontlines of climate change as it is a by-product and legacy of settler colonialism. The knowledge of biodiversity has existed for generations but has been threatened by settler colonialism, leaving displaced natives cut off from ancestral knowledge to feed future generations. Native-led orgs and grassroots partnerships have always rapidly shifted to meet the needs of our communities and we need support to continue providing vital knowledge & tools to sustain the next generation of traditional food stewards.

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What is your solution?

The First Foods initiative promotes food sovereignty for Indigenous peoples through education, community, and mutual aid. By restoring agency to urban & rural natives we can build a new path forward that builds on the knowledge of our ancestral lineages. We believe our programs help bridge the divide by bringing these people back into the community & indigenized self-sufficiency.  We have formed three branches of action to address the issue of indigenous food insecurity that has grown from the knowledge gained through our existing community efforts.

Our New Day for Old Ways educational series has included 2+ years of online class development & production. We focus on Indigenous Food culture, Food Sovereignty, Food Justice, Land Back, and Climate Change through our podcast, social media, and online and in-person classes, all taught by members of our diverse indigenous communities. All of our programs are documented and archived for future access. We have also reached thousands of viewers across nations & communities, with over 200 members signed up for classes regularly. We partnered with several organizations including, the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance and Northern Circle Indian Housing Authority. We are also developing our virtual meeting space in Gather Town for future classes. With this new resource, we will be able to allow guests to interact with our educational resources anywhere, anytime in a fun and innovative meta-space. 

Through the success of these classes, we created the First Foods Inter-Tribal Food Pantry & Co-op, a mutual aid initiative that brings Indigenous food producers and Native communities closer together to provide culturally accessible food products. With sponsorship from the First Nations Development Institute, we have established 7+ intertribal food pop-ups to service indigenous communities in need. Through partnerships with indigenous producers, we’ve successfully provided over 1500 pounds of food―including rice, oysters, potatoes and produce―for free to indigenous communities. We’ve also developed a digital database for native produce and are currently working to distribute fruit-bearing saplings. As this program develops, we will create food & culture centers to host our network of cultural educators and house our seed banks, and pantries. 

The newly forming Stewards program will create climate solutions through education, indigenous agro-biospheres, terraforming, and land back. The project will bring awareness to indigenous land and water stewards working in our focused Colorado regions to begin and will expand to other occupied territories. We aim to distribute workshops and roundtable discussions online covering the impacts of climate change & our fight for visibility, as well as provide them with kits and tools to get started. Developing this series will allow us to highlight/center Indigenous voices on how to combat environmental catastrophes before it is too late.  

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Strong preference will be given to Native-led solutions that directly benefit and are located within the Indigenous communities. Which community(s) does your solution benefit? In what ways will your solution benefit this community?

We aim to connect with displaced natives living in rural and urban areas to cultural food knowledge keepers and elders working within our indigenous communities. The First Foods Program focuses on food access, traditional cooking, wildcrafting, and gardening, as well as facilitating dialogue around the ethics of native food rights. We’ve hired over 50 Indigenous culture bearers to lead these classes and conversations that promote food sovereignty that Indigenizes our relationship to food and the land. All of our programs are documented and uploaded to our socials/website to keep the knowledge shared and accessible. 

With the help of sponsorship from the First Nations Development Institute this year we have established approximately 7+ intertribal food pop-ups to service indigenous communities including the Shinnecock Nation, Wampanoag, Oglala, Lakota, Andean, and Indigenous Mexican communities living in underserved rural and urban areas. We’ve successfully delivered over 1500 pounds of food for free to indigenous communities through our partnerships with indigenous producers. This includes 1000 lbs of rice to Blackfeet Browning Montana with the Strong Heart Warrior Society; over 300 oysters to the Shinnecock Nation with the Shinnecock Cultural Resources Department and other produce, meats, and meals. We are currently in the process of delivering two full bison―around 4000lbs worth of indigenous meat―to natives in the Denver metro area with Colorado rancher Brent Ginther. 

Connecting our food pantries to native food producers has allowed us to provide locally, ecologically, and culturally sound food to native communities. In our search for native-owned foods, we have developed a digital database for native produce which is accessible to all via our website. We are currently working to bring fruit-bearing saplings of native plants to these communities as well. As this program continues to develop, we endeavor to create sustainable food & culture centers that will host our network of cultural educators, as well as house our kitchens, seed banks, and pantries.

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How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

We are 100% Indigenous-led. Our Board members consist of several elders and professionals from across turtle island as well as the Indigenous Caribbean: Renee San Souci (Omaha), Sid Whiting (Sicangu Lakota), Carrese Gullo (Eastern Cherokee), Emma Lee Joe (Nlaka’pamux), Irka Mateo (Taino), Nate Etsitty (Navajo), Christinia Eala (Sicangu Lakota), and Mary Opwam (Cree). We follow a community-responsive leadership model. Our teachers and communities are the center stones of our collective. 

Our core leadership team consists of Mia Beverly (Lenape/Cherokee), Brooke Rodriguez (Borikua-Taino), and Alexandria Cruz (Borikua-Taino):

Brooke Rodriguez is a Táino mother living in Matinecock territory, the co-founder of The Grinding Stone Collective, and co-host of the First Foods Program. Brooke is invested in addressing climate change through regional Indigenous culture and bringing indigenous food sovereignty initiatives to the forefront. She understands that Indigenous cultures hold the original instructions for maintaining healthy stewardship of the land and that we must center frontline indigenous communities in times of climate crisis. As Director of Programs, her responsibilities include coordinating programming, sourcing teachers, and/or working with other groups for programming; coalition building, public relations, philanthropic advocacy, budgeting, community outreach, and overseeing all operations including fundraising.

Mia Beverly is a Cherokee writer, Grant Manager for First Foods, and Director of Grants and Fundraising for Grinding Stone Collective. While studying History and Comparative Literature at Fordham University, they interned at American Civil Liberties Union in Development and served on the Indigenous Justice Steering Committee, joining programmatic conversations on operationalizing Indigenous Justice values and increasing indigenous staff visibility and retention. They have been serving on the Sandhill Band of Cherokee and Lenape (New Jersey) Women’s Council since 2019. As Director of Grants and Fundraising, they develop fundraising strategies, formulate solicitation procedures, oversee all fundraising activities regarding direction and coordination of soliciting donors, act as direct liaison with funding partners and organizations, and Lead grant-writing efforts.

Alexandria Cruz is Boricua Taino living in Lenapehoking/Canarsie territory. She is the newest addition to the Grinding Stone Collective and is working as a writer and editor. She is a recent graduate from Bard College via their satellite program at the Brooklyn Public Library through a scholarship. She previously worked as the Program Coordinator for University Open Air, a program dedicated to employing immigrant professors to teach free courses of their design to the public bi-yearly. She also completed the Dialects of Decolonization activist program through the Center for Embodied Pedagogy & Action. She also previously performed with the Kasibahuga Taino Cultural Society at pow wows on the East Coast to educate the public on Taino recognition. With these experiences, she plans to continue advocating for Taíno recognition and the liberation of Borikén through curandera-style writing, as described by the author Aurora Levins Morales and advocating for the return of indigenous artifacts to their places of origin. 

(https://www.grindingstone.org/our-leadership)

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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

New York, NY, USA
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Our solution's stage of development:

Growth
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How many people does your solution currently serve?

9050

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Why are you applying to Solve?

First Foods Program educational curriculum and mutual has outpaced our capacity on every front.  We seek development and training opportunities for potential staff, in areas including multimedia production, development, and administrative staff, as well. We need support in the following areas to further develop the First Foods Program digitally and in person: 

  • New Day for Old Ways - We will utilize support and funding to increase the accessibility of our current and future video catalog by adding Spanish & ASL speakers (and other native languages as we further develop). We are also contracting new podcast hosts, teachers, and knowledge keepers to continue the food education series in 2022 and facilitate more conversations around food access, security, and sovereignty and its implications for climate change, Indigenous justice, and the retention of Indigenous life and knowledge. We also need support in expanding our Gather Town virtual space, including map development, sourcing data & images to incorporate into the space, and creating a digital database of native foods and plants across Turtle Island to educate our users/visitors.

  • Intertribal Food Pantry First - We have already provided 1500 pounds of food to in-need communities and aim to triple these contributions for urgent rapid responses in the face of natural disasters and economic downturns. We need assistance for utilities, supplies, transportation fees, program management salary, and sourcing culturally appropriate whole foods from native producers to meet the demands of the growing food insecurity in Indian County. Additionally, we want to expand and update our existing database of indigenous producers. We will utilize any funds to purchase food from Native producers and transportation to indigenous communities as well as salaries for pantry management. 

  • The Stewards program will create climate solutions through education, indigenous agro-biospheres, terraforming, and land back. To grow this program, we need to hire ethnobotanists, and botanists, and find sustainable sourcing for heirloom seeds, saplings, and fungi to provide the tools necessary to move from the planning stages to direct action against climate change. and plans to bring in more for 2022, including the reintroduction of native saplings of fruit-bearing plants that will sustain future generations. 

Our total budget for a fiscal year for the work we do now is approximately $52,405.00 with a budgetary fundraising goal of 175k; a majority of which goes to contracting Indigenous teachers and almost $10,000 for food distribution and mutual aid. Our three-person staff is currently part-time and this includes administrative and management. We seek to expand our budget in order to not only distribute aid in the form of cultural knowledge but build a network of mutual & immediate support through our Intertribal Food Pantry and Stewards initiatives.

We seek funding for tech, staff salaries, contractors, mutual aid, and office supplies. Our three-person staff is currently part-time and this includes administrative and management. Our Director of Programs manages contractors, transcribes and implements contracts, develops the program curriculum for First Foods Program, and manages social media. Our Director of Communications produces content, specializes in information technology, and serves as media contact. Finally, our Grant Manager transcribes grant applications, provides reporting, and researches funding opportunities. Our team works assure that GSC is a success and we hope to support the people who often provide time and energy over time.

The demand for the First Foods Program educational curriculum and mutual has outpaced our capacity on every front. We aim to increase accessibility to our existing and future content by including translation services for Spanish speakers and ASL community members. Although we have produced the first four podcasts episodes and about 40 classes, we require more funding, training, and technical assistance to produce content that more robustly answers the overwhelmingly rising demand. We seek assistance in technical support, capacity building, and training to continue both the video series & podcast into 2022 and facilitate more conversation around food sovereignty and its implications for climate change, Indigenous justice, and the retention of Indigenous life and knowledge. 

Intertribal Food Pantry - We have already provided 4000 pounds of food to in-need communities and plan to bring in more for 2023, including the reintroduction of native saplings of fruit-bearing plants that will sustain future generations. We need financial assistance for utilities, supplies, transportation fees, program management salary, and sourcing culturally appropriate whole foods from native producers to meet the demands of the growing food insecurity in Indian County. 

Our total budget for a fiscal year for the work we do now is approximately $52,405.00 with a budgetary fundraising goal of 175k across three people working part-time, a majority of which goes to contracting Indigenous teachers and almost $10,000 in utilities, supplies, food distribution, mutual aid, and giveaways. We have largely relied on generous donations from abroad, an inter-tribal network of organizations, mutual aid groups, and tribes for distributing aid. For example, Trees, Water, & People sent us a donation of two solar-powered lights for camping, worth almost 200 dollars. Donations like these are used in giveaways or forms of mutual aid to whoever is in need but we seek to build our capacity to distribute more mutual aid in the form of groceries, PPE, and heirloom seeds without relying on in-kind donations. We seek to expand our budget in order to not only distribute aid in the form of cultural knowledge but build a network of mutual and immediate support through our Intertribal Food Pantry and Stewards initiatives.


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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Financial (e.g. improving accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)
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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Brooke Rodriguez

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Please indicate the tribal affiliation of your Team Lead.

Borikua Taino

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Is the Team Lead a resident of the United States?

Yes

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Drive positive outcomes for Native learners of any or all ages while supporting culturally grounded educational opportunities on and/or off reservations.

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More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

Our program is rooted in preservation and reintegration using technology and education. The loss of Indigenous culture and heritage is the intended result of colonization. From the 1864 Long Walk of the Navajo to systemic abuse like the residential school system in the U.S., and policies like the Indian Relocation Act of 1956, the settler state has afflicted cultural genocide on Native Americans for centuries. Our work in creating digital space leads to the reclamation of culture and collective healing. Through resource programming and platform development in First Foods Program, we build a community online based on education and mutual aid. By increasing visibility for food sovereignty work, we directly combat Indigenous erasure. First Foods builds cultural bridges between rural and majority urban Indigenous populations through an educational platform, creating video & audio content, and distributing food and tools to combat food insecurity, and soon we will physically begin the task of reintroducing native plants to their original lands with our stewards, alongside building our virtual space so people can access regardless of their proximity to native land.  

Through our classes, our audience engages in discussions based on environmental conservation. When Ojibway teacher and storyteller Isaac Murdoch led our class on “Rights of Nations: Fishing, Hunting, Foraging & Storytelling,” he informed the audience on the significance of the moose in his culture as part of the fish clan from Serpent River First Nation. Not only are the moose a food source, but have cultural significance for the Nation. Through storytelling, we learned the cultural, spiritual, and ecological importance of the species and how habitat degradation, overheating, disease, and tick infestation as a result of climate change threatens their populations. The old and new knowledge must be documented if we are to ensure these important lessons reach future generations. 

Food sovereignty and food security is social, racial, and Indigenous justice. In our class “Agro-economy” with Hupa food preservationist Meagan Baldy, we learned about the history of food as sustenance and capital in Indigenous California. Through bartering and trade, we seek to Indigenize the way we value goods and strengthen communities by creating smaller, agriculturally-based economies, hence the term “agro-economy.” Data from the 2018 U.S. Census reveals that Native Americans have the highest poverty rate among all minorities, with a rate of 25.4% while one out of four experience food insecurity. We provide solutions based on Indigenous values and culture. First Foods Program seeks to innovate the way we strive for environmental conservation, heritage preservation, and Indigenous justice in the food sovereignty movement. 

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What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

We are expanding staff in order to build capacity for our short-term and long-term goals. Part of why we began the First Foods Program was to create opportunities for Indigenous people, including jobs. We have contracted over thirty culture-bearers to provide not only teaching opportunities and visibility but to support them through economically challenging times. We long to create more long-term jobs and opportunities so that people can do what they love and contribute to a larger movement while being able to support themselves and achieve their professional goals.

This year we are accelerating our existing work by starting the Stewards program. This program will support Land Back initiatives by providing the education and tools to combat climate change via the reintroduction of native plant species. We are also tripling our mutual aid food distribution efforts in response to the 

In three years, First Foods Program seeks to expand its multimedia production, expand staff capacity, and be in the beginning stages of developing an Indigenous food highway in the form of food culture centers. 

Our long-term goals include developing food culture centers that will host cultural educators, cooking and food preservation houses, seed banks, learning centers, and pantries in Colorado, Oregon, and New York City. By creating these centers, we seek to localize food systems and create connections between food producers and recipients. An Indigenous-led program made for Indigenous people, First Foods seeks to bring food sovereignty to the forefront of the global conversation and hold the upstream solutions humanity needs to survive the catastrophes that come with rapid climate change.  

 

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How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

We track our success by the growth of our programs and the growing number of community members we have supported/educated during these transformative times. Thus far we have connected with 9,000+ patrons across all services offered. We have distributed 4,000+ pounds of food, meat, and produce. We have growing databases of native producers, a growing network of educators/knowledge keepers, and our catalog of videos and podcasts that will expand this year. 

With our success thus far, we recognize that our work needs to move into a place of agency for our community, including providing the necessary tools to combat hunger permanently. Given the state of the world, this can only be achieved by training land stewards to start creating community spaces for indigenous agriculture. The implementation and success of the Stewards initiative will be our greatest achievement in the battle against food insecurity for our community. Everything we have been working towards over the last two years has led us to this viable solution and we are confident in our network of cultural knowledge keepers and staff's ability to make this dream a reality.

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What is your theory of change?

As displaced native people who have had to reconnect with our indigenous roots, we have first-hand experience with the desire to obtain indigenous knowledge. We understand there are barriers to connecting with the community as outsiders within. Indigenous knowledge of the land has been safeguarded for generations, gatekept with the goal of preservation in the face of cultural annihilation at the hands of outsiders. 

Modern technology like social media has allowed indigenous cultural representatives to create digital platforms to connect with the world by sharing windows into their everyday lives. With those platforms, relations have developed that cross the barriers of distance between natives who are federally recognized and those who have had to overcome displacement. What we realized is that many of our relatives on and off the reservations are struggling to make ends meet. We understood that with time, even those in the community have lost connection with the land. We spoke with our friends across the tribal community and invited them to come together and share their knowledge. Out of these connections, the Grinding Stone Collective emerged with a desire to document and create important cultural food knowledge with the wider indigenous community that will put an end to food insecurity. 

Connecting our educational resources with indigenous food access allows our network to eat and experiment with foods they may not have access to, as well as connect with indigenous food producers who can supply them with more. These cultural exchanges will keep the community in conversation about the issues of access to native foods, while also removing the barrier to access. 

We’ve come to realize that the natural next step is cultivating native foods as well. The implementation of our Stewards program will give agency to people who have had to overcome the hurdles of food insecurity themselves. In order to implement this program, we will need to hire knowledge keepers who can teach the importance of agro-biospheres, terraforming, and land back. We will need the support of ethnobotanists, and botanists, as well as sustainable sourcing for heirloom seeds, saplings, and fungi.

In the long term, we will need to source land to begin the process of cultivating foods and terraforming to combat climate change—the biggest challenge in overcoming food insecurity—and restore native plants that can heal the lands. 

The age of empty green lawns is coming to an end as indigenous hands return to the earth to bring back the native plants that belong to our environment. The shift to self-sustainability will have a direct impact in the fight against food insecurity and climate change, both brought about by the crimes of settler colonialism.

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Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we focused on diversifying our virtual spaces to keep our community members safe. This process allowed us to document and preserve every class. 

Virtual resources connect individuals and communities by removing the barriers to education and fostering community through participation. Our virtual spaces include the Gather.Town (metaverse), augmented reality, Zoom, Youtube, and social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. 

We also rely heavily on tech to support the everyday function of the collective. Being that we are only a small part-time staff of three and lack the capital to hire a full team, tech has allowed us to stay afloat and manage workloads. Some of the tools we use are Asana, Slack, Airtable, Canva, Buffer, Dlvrit, Linktr.ee, QuickBooks Intuit, Wix and Procreate. 

In our long-term goals, we will need to access sustainable modes of transportation for food/goods distribution during our food pantry pop-ups. We are looking into electric vans that could be part of community basic resource sharing and food distribution. As we move toward our goal of aiding native communities in land management and stewardship we will need to expand and improve our data collection, soil sampling, and localized food production systems such as the year-round grow systems created by Square Roots.

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Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices
  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Audiovisual Media
  • Crowd Sourced Service / Social Networks
  • Software and Mobile Applications
  • Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13. Climate Action
  • 14. Life Below Water
  • 15. Life on Land
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In which states do you currently operate?

  • Colorado
  • Montana
  • New York
  • South Dakota
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In which states will you be operating within the next year?

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
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Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Nonprofit

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How many people work on your solution team?

3

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How long have you been working on your solution?

2 years

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What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

First Foods is an Indigenous-led program for Indigenous people. Founder Rodriguez, Taino, ensures that the organization uplifts Native voices by contracting Indigenous culture bearers from tribes and communities across the Americas; from Mashpee Wampanoag to Ojibwe to Mexica across all ages, social classes, educational levels, etc. Whether developing leaders or contracting teachers or recruiting hosts, First Foods actively seeks Indigenous voices to uplift and provide direction as it develops and grows. Whether recruiting or receiving feedback, we maintain ongoing conversations between leadership, staff, audience, and the communities served.

Diversity in First Foods is represented by an intertribal, intersectional approach that is inclusive across race, ethnicities, sexualities, ages, classes and genders with respect to traditional borders and territorial protocols defined within specific Tribal Nations’ spaces. Especially in online webinars, podcast episodes, and educational videos, First Foods teachers and hosts bring their identities and experiences to the platform as an educational opportunity. For instance, when instructor Irka Mateo, a Dominican sing-songwriter and researcher brought the sounds of her native country to the First Foods Facebook page, she taught how the Dominican alternative music movement inspires a “spirit of resistance” from a multicultural and multiracial perspective unique to her own. When instructors from Ndee, Ojibwe, Mexika, and Wirarika backgrounds came together for a panel discussion on breast milk as a form of food sovereignty, First Foods presented an intertribal discussion of motherhood, history, and traditions. First Foods experienced a setback during the Covid-19 pandemic but turned the hurdle into an opportunity to showcase intertribal Indigenous voices from varied backgrounds to a larger audience. Originally, First Foods focused on the indigenous population in New York with in-person workshops, going online and working remotely has allowed for not only content to reach a wider audience but to enlist instructors and staff from across the Americas as well. We present content not confined to one spirituality, belief set, or tribe, but from an intertribal lens that recognizes the diversity and connectedness of multiple cultures. 

 We operate with a communal decision-making style representative of the organic community that has formed around First Foods through various program offerings. The key stakeholders are Brooke Rodriguez, Sid Whiting, Rene San Souci, Marina Bartelli, Mary Opwam, Mia Beverly, Luis Calderon, Irka Mateo, and Emma Joe Lee; all of whom are Indigenous People across large age, race, tribal affiliations, location, and class demographics.

Through monthly and weekly meetings with our board and key staff, we make strategic decisions to determine our development and programming as a nonprofit. We maintain consistent communication, database upkeep, and input, and designated responsibilities and roles, we determine the next steps and hold programmatic conversations with founder Brooke Rodriguez, Board Members, Advisory and Community on major decision-makers while also confining specific roles and responsibilities to key staff accordingly. 

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Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

We are a charitable organization focusing on traditional food, food systems, and climate change. We have three pillars of success: education, visibility, and mutual aid. Our core product for the first foods program is our Media/ Videos/Podcasts and our Traditional Food product line ventures. We are already seeing the impacts of climate change on the global food system. Having traditionally and regionally sourced food that does not impact the environment is going to be not only necessary but the standard when it comes to the food crisis and climate change. Access to healthier environmentally stable foods is not only unique, it's scalable and economically viable.

 

Food sovereignty is a global movement that is very decentralized: localized and supported by constituents and guided by elders and medicine people have been teaching for many generations. The work at First Foods is not brand new, nor is it a unique idea, our work succeeds because it is community-supported and uplifting of the community simultaneously. We aren’t the ones who came up with the idea, we are the ones who contribute our time and our lives to implementing the vision and values set forth for us hundreds of years ago. We are part of a long line of preservationist-minded people thinking forward to the next seven generations ahead of us. We do not view ourselves as part of a movement as much as we are part of a life that embodies the type of social change Americans are searching for. We collaborate across a huge spectrum of people in the gorgeous diasporas of Indigenous communities. Within our communities lie all of our non-Native allies, family members, and community relationships. Native people do not operate in a silo so First Foods does not either. We are part of a positively contributing community of people that are part of the whole of humanity on the continent, so our programming and the ways that we organize are reflective of this as well. 

Working within a greater community, we have developed a network of programmatic partnerships, sponsorships, and collaborations in our efforts. We have worked with Heather Henson of IBEX puppetry, or Green Feather Foundation, Tiospaye Winyan Maka, Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA), and Northern Circle Indian Housing Authority as programmatic partnerships. These programmatic partnerships have manifested as NAFSA sending Indigenous heirloom seeds to First Foods for giveaways or donations in mutual aid. We have worked with Her Many Voices as our fiscal sponsor and consultants on development. Finally, we work with individual contractors as teachers for our educational and instructional videos.

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Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

In order to fund First Foods, we will continue to seek funding through sponsorships and grants, as well as accept donations from private individuals, organizations, and businesses to support this work. GSC will host events for the purpose of fundraising via Gather.Town, as well as developing a GSC store to sell a variety of items in support and promotion of our objectives, including but not limited to educational materials such as books and media, seeds, native crafted traditional items and apparel. 

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Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

Grinding Stone Collective’s strategy for achieving financial sustainability has been primarily seeking seed funding through sponsorships and grants. Since the beginning of 2021, GSC has been applying for and receiving grants from various organizations including the Chinook Fund, First Nations Development Institute, and Resist accumulating almost $40,000 in funding within a year and with only two to three part-time staff. We also value the steady stream of donations from private individuals and businesses, averaging a humble range of 5-25$ a month. We facilitate these donations through our website, and occasional fundraising events on the videoconferencing application Gather.Town, and programming such as our educational series First Foods Program. We seek to expand our strategy for achieving financial sustainability through hosting online fundraising events and a GSC online store in the future. 

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Solution Team

  • Alex Cruz Communications Manager│Grinding Stone Collective, Grinding Stone Collective
  • Brooke Rodriguez Director / Founder , Grinding Stone Collective
 
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