Arlee community seeks Food Sovereignty Coordinator

By Kati Burton, CSKT Guided Care Dietitian 

While this column is meant to gather food stories from the Flathead, I couldn’t help but put a plug in for the Arlee Community Development Corporation’s (Arlee CDC) search for a Food Sovereignty Coordinator. And honestly, when this passionate foodie is found, I’ll personally be excited to collaborate. It is always easier to grow a food movement with more people at the table! 

The Arlee CDC has been around since 2000 with support from Salish Kootenai College Business Outreach Center and the Salish Kootenai Housing Authority. Their mission statement emphasizes activities that are “deemed to be beneficial socially, physically, economically and culturally to the public interest of the Arlee-Jocko Valley community.”

Much has happened since its inception, identifying multiple strategies to bolster the Arlee economy and grow strong, healthy families. One project in particular, through support from a Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF) grant awarded to Salish Kootenai College, identified parenting skills and resiliency tools for children as key priorities for mitigating the effects of poverty specifically in Arlee. The Arlee CDC has employed development activities, such as art festivals and after school programs, as well as a Family Dinner Project that engaged local families as they completed activities and ate a healthy meal. 

Common at Arlee CDC meetings today is the conversation of food, and in particular, food sovereignty. Shelly Fyant, of the Arlee CDC and CSKT Tribal Council, remembers attending the Seeds of Native Health conference in Minnesota a couple years back when she learned the phrase, “a nation that cannot feed itself is not truly sovereign.” The conference struck a chord in Shelly, as it did with others back in Arlee.

The message of food sovereignty, “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food and to define their own food and agricultural systems,” is the cornerstone to the Arlee CDC Food Sovereignty Committee’s current drive to hire a Food Sovereignty Coordinator, partially funded by a grant received from the Montana Healthcare Foundation. 

“We are a hungry valley looking for good community solutions to solve this hunger and build food sovereignty resilience. This person [FS Coordinator] can help lead an assessment to determine what projects are actually going to hit our goals,” says Arlee CDC member and Goodworks Ventures founder, Mary Stranahan. 

It is clear that collecting the voices of our communities is sorely needed to inform projects that can truly make a difference on health outcomes for the Salish Kootenai people. This Food Sovereignty Coordinator has the potential to focus their energy on planting the seeds for good health today and for generations to come. 

If you are interested in applying for the Arlee Food Sovereignty Coordinator, please contact Casey Barrows at 406-207-9431 or email him at

This column is a project of Kati Burton, CSKT Guided Care Dietitian. She hopes to bring local voices to the table to discuss food traditions and memories that reconnect us with our food history and help us to eat well. 

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