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Butte Native Wellness Center offers meal kits that connect to culture and help with food insecurity

Indigenous Meal Kits at the Butte Native Wellness Center
Posted at 7:33 AM, May 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-06 13:10:55-04

BUTTE — According to the folks at the Butte Native Wellness Center, food is medicine. A new meal kit program that offers weekly recipes along with items needed to make them is helping people connect with their cultures and eat healthy.

Before talking about impact of the Indigenous Meal Kit Program that serves Native Americans and the general public in Butte, one of the cultural specialists introduces herself in her native Blackfeet language before also introducing herself in English.

"My name is Terryn Williamson, I come from the Blackfeet Nation," says Terryn Williamson. She is part of the team leading a new pilot project that offers Indigenous Meal Kits filled with recipes and food from the western hemisphere that have ties to tribes in Montana and across the United States.

"The food program really ties in with our culture because the bison were taken away from us historically, so as we are bringing them back we are also feeding the Native community in Butte from the Blackfeet Nation," says Williamson.

Williamson says that it fills her heart to see food from her reservation being used to help feed people in Butte. The impact of the meals is multifaceted, giving Native Americans in the community a chance to learn more about their culture while also addressing the problem of food insecurity in Butte.

The meal kit program began in November 2023 with a goal of distributing 5,000 pounds of food through August 2024.

Williamson works alongside registered dietitian Aimee Velk, also an employee at the Butte Native Wellness Center. Both women consider food to be medicine.

"I really subscribe to, in my profession as a dietitian, food as being medicine, and so being able to vet these recipes and see the nutritional information and say that these are appropriate foods that are also enjoyable for people is a really big thing for me," says Velk.

"It’s exciting because I never really learned anything about my heritage. I mean, I know about it but I’m learning more about it every day pretty much. So it’s really interesting," says Michael Sirucek, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation. He is picking up his first meal kit with a recipe called "The Three Sisters" that contains squash and turkey among other ingredients.

Sirucek says he looks forward to making and sharing the meal with his children.

"Our storytelling and the food that we consume, it all ties back into our culture which really ties back into how we relate to Mother Earth. And that just kind of ties into how we as Native people live our daily lives," says Williamson.

Much of the food is purchased from local grocery stores, but the program also supports tribes that are producing food like wild rice from the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota, Flathead Lake trout from the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe, and bison meat from the Blackfeet Nation.

"With this program we are not only feeding the Native population, but we are also feeding the public which is a need that we are addressing. I just believe that it is just helping everyone all together as a whole and allowing the community to come together, " says Williamson.

Indigenous meal kits are different every week and can be picked up on Thursdays beginning around 9 a.m. at the Butte Native Wellness Center on East Galena Street.

Meal kits are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and are often gone by 11 a.m., so the staff at the Butte Native Wellness Center encourages those interested in learning how to cook with Indigenous foods to get theirs early.