DThompson1313 / CC BY-SA

August 19, 2020; Star Tribune

As NPQ has noted in the past few weeks (see here and here), recessions don’t necessarily make it less likely for new nonprofits to emerge. There are some entrepreneurs in both the social and business sectors that see instability as an opportunity to advance new ideas. In this case, the idea had already been born, but, faced with obstacles, this partnership embraced them and altered their creative path.

In Minnesota, a new nonprofit called the Indigenous Food Lab, an offshoot of the culinary team known as the Sioux Chef and of the nonprofit North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS) has officially set up shop. Sean Sherman, its founder, sees the project as providing avenues to allow his community to heal from the effects of colonialism.

“There’s so much knowledge that was lost,” says Sherman. “There’s this complete absence of Indigenous anything within the culinary world. It’s a completely broken system.”

Modern Farmer reports:

Sherman hopes the lab and others like it will allow Indigenous people to reclaim cultural food traditions that have been absent for multiple generations. Sherman and his team plan to invite Indigenous communities from across North America to come to the food lab to learn and to share knowledge about their regional food systems. This could consist of anything from agriculture practices like seed saving and ethnobotany to learning how to cook and preserving the flavors of their area.

The lab is located in a professional kitchen at Minneapolis’s Midtown Global Market, where, among other things, they prepare 400 meals a day for Minnesota Central Kitchen through a partnership that has out of work restaurant workers make hot meals for those in need. This, for now, is a core part of Sherman’s plan to train and employ indigenous chefs, eventually seeding other food endeavors among them, and is a slight detour from the original idea, which was to establish a restaurant with many of the same goals. The pandemic made short work of the timing on that endeavor, but it also opened an opportunity to get going on many of the same initiatives he had envisioned.

“We are so proud to have the Indigenous Food Lab as one of our Midtown Global Market businesses,” said Ben Johnson, senior director of real estate for the Neighborhood Development Center, one of the owners of Midtown Global Market. “We are delighted to see this vision come to life.”

Keep an eye on this space as we continue to bring vivid examples of fitting new models of work to our new environment.—Ruth McCambridge