Food: Coeur d'Alene Tribe goes back to roots to fight diabetes

"Stepping into the Family Foods supermarket in Plummer, 34 miles south of Coeur d'Alene, is not unlike stepping into a supermarket anywhere in rural America. A case full of day-glow donuts and thickly frosted cakes grab the eye the instant a shopper walks through its door. The deli counter is stacked in crisp brown mountains of deep-fried everything--and apart from a long wall of pricey produce and a rather impressive meat counter--space is given over to a typical assortment of packaged and processed fare.

There is nothing exceptional about that supermarket--apart from the fact that it sits on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation, home to a community grappling with the obesity, diabetes and other food-related illnesses that studies have linked to the kind of unexceptional food lining American grocery store shelves. A group of local food activists say Plummer's only grocery store isn't the root problem, nor is it the convenience stores and fast-food outlets that dot Plummer's main drag. It's the lack of healthy, affordable food options available to a town of 900 people. That group, the One Sky/One Earth Food Coalition, wants to change things.

"We're rampant with diabetes," said LoVina Louie as she and three other coalition members picked huckleberries in the mountains east of town on a cloudless August morning. A 2008 federal study found that Native Americans between the ages of 15 and 19 experienced a 70 percent increase in diabetes between 1994 and 2004.

"It's just so much easier to buy fried foods," Louie added. "That kind of food is what's killing us.""

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Coeur d'Alene Tribe Gets Back to its Food Roots (Boise Weekly 9/14)

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