A tribal-led plan to build a meat-processing facility on the Blackfeet Nation reservation in Montana will help invigorate the local economy, safeguard cultural traditions, and protect community health and the environment.

A simple cup of tea or a few servings of fresh vegetables don’t always come cheap for residents of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana. For the Blackfeet Nation, one of the 10 largest tribes in the United States, whose 1.5 million acre homeland is roughly the size of Delaware, there are only two grocery stores, both in the tribal seat of Browning.

At the local stores, a box of tea or a head of cauliflower can cost $10 or $11, more than double what one might pay elsewhere. “And with $11,” says Danielle Antelope, co-chair of FAST (Food Access and Sustainability Team) Blackfeet, “you’d probably rather buy a pack of meat so that you can cook some dinner for your kids.” Residents on the reservation are known to travel up to two hours to shop at a more affordable grocery store.

According to a 2017 assessment, 69 percent of people on the Blackfeet reservation struggle with food insecurity—compared to the national average of 12.5 percent—due in large part to poverty caused by widespread unemployment. Fresh food is particularly hard to come by, and nutrition assistance programs can be out of reach, too, as a result of limited transportation options and unreliable internet service in this remote area just east of Glacier National Park.

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