A food desert is any area (rural or urban) where fresh foods are difficult to find, and very expensive to purchase. I experienced this last year when my family took a trip down to Southern Ohio to see the various native mounds. We found ourselves surrounded by fields of corn and soy, and yet searching fruitlessly for a fresh market or farmstand. The most common places to buy foodstuffs were the local dollar stores (which had increased their options and offerings to serve the community's needs). You'd go to a restaurant and the green beans were always canned. Again, ironic given that you are in prime farm land.
The desert status of Pine Ridge is also ironic because prior to European contact, the Lakota had no problem feeding themselves. They hunted the plentiful buffalo that roamed the prairies and used indigenous plants to supplement. The native diet was indeed a paleo one with an emphasis on meat for primary nutrition. With such a diet, obesity and nutritional deficiencies were not an issue. With a diet now that consists primarily of pre-packaged, processed foods that can be purchased inexpensively, the population is suffering the same ills as the overall American population--but to an even greater degree of alarm.
For myself, my 'new age' solution will be to take some foods that will help me not to throw my body out of whack. My Quest protein bars, some Early Grey tea bags, some packages of freeze-dried fruit, and some chocolate protein shake packets, but I do this with some reservations. I'm privileged to be able to afford these foods and to have the knowledge to know that this is what I should be eating. The people who live at Pine Ridge have been removed from their ancestral diet and knowledge of it and have suffered mightily as a result. Of course, this is a more insidious suffering than Indian Removal policies of the past centuries, the killing of buffalo herds simply for hides or so as to eliminate native resources, and massacres such as Wounded Knee. However, the food desert that exists on tribal lands dictates a continued legacy of demoralization. I know how poorly I feel when I cannot eat well. I would not want junk food to be my only option. The Lakota are trying to again raise buffalo as a source of income and nutrition, but this alone cannot solve the problems that have become embedded in the native diet and the availability of resources on the reservation. I will try to help support these people by buying lots of buffalo jerky while I'm there. See article below: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/3/21/restoring-buffaloandresistingdroughtonthereservation.html
So, this week I challenge you to think about several things. If you live in a food desert, how do you deal with that reality? Does it mean more travel? Higher food costs? More homegrown produce? More things ordered via internet/mail? If you don't live in a food desert, what resources do you take for granted? Farmers' Markets? CSA's? High-end groceries? Restaurants? And finally, what "food desert" foods are you still allowing in your life and why? How do they impact your health? Your psyche? Your pocketbook?
I know I'll have more to say when I return. Until then, be mindful and think new age paleo.