Nutrition Programs Put Healthy Food on the Menu

By Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, February 15, 2017

Gwe Yak Mino Wiisin A Da — Let’s Eat the Right Foods!

In recent years, poor nutrition has led to obesity and related health problems in Indian County and across the U.S. The good news for Mille Lacs Band members is that several programs exist to provide healthy food options and educate families on preparing healthy meals.

The Diabetes Department at Ne-Ia-Shing Clinic wants to help Band members find the assistance they need, no matter which District they live in.

Brittany Crawford is the Diabetes Coordinator at Ne-Ia-Shing Clinic. She works with Dietician Cyndy Travers, Fitness Coordinators Jim Ingle and Bobby Anderson, and SNAP Education Coordinator Diane O’Donnell. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and replaced the old food stamp program. This is the first year the Band has been awarded its own SNAP-Ed program.

Diane teaches nutrition lessons and cooking classes for adults at Mino Bimaadiziwin, the halfway house, the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program, the women’s shelter and the commodities building. She uses curriculum from the University of Minnesota and also includes games and surveys to make learning fun. This spring she intends to put in a community garden at the Mino Bimaadiziwin after starting plants in the greenhouse near the commodities building.

“I like to assist folks with recipes, snacks and tips to eat better and be more active,” said Diane. “The new commodities are healthier than they used to be, with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables and traditional foods. They’ll soon be replacing white rice with brown and wild rice.”

Diane is emphasizing meal planning to help people become better shoppers as well as better chefs. The three steps for healthy eating on a budget are planning, purchasing and preparing. She also stresses balancing calories and physical activity. “Even when we’re stuck inside on a cold day, we can find something to do,” she said. “It’s better than sitting on the couch.”

Diane says it’s difficult in rural areas to access healthy, affordable foods, but she also knows of many programs and organizations that can help. If you struggle to put healthy food on the table, consider these resources:

  • SNAP: Call 1-800-221-5689 to see if you qualify. Funds are deposited on a debit card.
  • Commodities: Call 320-532-7880 extension 227 to see if you meet income guidelines. Even if you don’t qualify for SNAP, you may qualify for commodities, but you can’t qualify for both. The commodities program delivers food once a month.
  • Mille Lacs Band Food Shelves: At the commodities building in District I, there is a “free store” providing not just food but also other household items. There’s no waiting for applications to be processed, so if you’re hungry today, you can get help. Deliveries are made to Districts II and III.
  • WIC: The Women, Infants and Children program is an income-based program providing vouchers for milk, cereal, juice, fruits and vegetables. Call Joanne Boyd at 320-532-7821 to see if you qualify.
  • Ruby’s Pantry: On the first Monday of the month, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Ruby’s Pantry is open to everyone at the Lions Community Center 806 Kathio St, Onamia. Cost is $20 for a monthly package. Contents can be viewed online, and it’s always a great deal.
  • Fare For All: On the first Wednesday of the month from 3 to 5 p.m., Fare For All provides low cost fruits and vegetables, meats and combinations at the Onamia Vets Club on Hwy. 169 and 27.
  • There are food shelves and/or thrift stores in Onamia, Garrison, Isle, Hinckley and McGregor. To find food shelves in Minnesota communities go to:


Tips to a Great Plate

Enjoy your food, but eat less. Avoid oversized portions. Find out how many calories you need for a day at

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables and half your grains whole grains.

Reduce sodium, sugary foods, fatty meats, and sugary drinks.

Exercise every day, with some moderate to vigorous activity.

Contact Diane at the District I ALU, 320-532-7742 or diane.o’