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UNCP dishes up healthy, local food at annual event


From quinoa salad to turnip soup and bison chili to skinny pumpkin pie, the fifth edition of UNC Pembroke’s Honoring Native Foodways served up tasty and healthy food on November 21.

Some of UNCP’s most adventurous students dived in. Chris Bullock attempted to sample everything and proclaimed “I didn’t eat anything I didn’t like. And free food is the best kind.”

Other students, like Francine Cummings, cooked for the event. Her deer sausage disappeared quickly.

“My father killed this deer, and all of us in the family made it,” said Cummings, who is a member of Alpha Pi Omega, an American Indian Sorority. “It’s my father’s recipe.”

Honoring Native Foodways is designed to honor Indigenous and local foods to inform the university community during American Indian Heritage Month. The university and wider community pitched in. The women of Pembroke’s First Baptist Church cooked and served. Molly Jacobs, a former Senior Ms. Lumbee, prepared turnip soup and sang for the diners.

The event is sponsored by the Department of American Indian Studies, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Native American Resource Center. Janice Fields, family and consumer sciences extension agent, brought her food grinder and a whole grains display.

“I want to show how easy it is to get whole grains into your diet,” Fields said. “This corn meal is ground popcorn.” Besides recipes and information, Fields brought butternut squash.

UNCP senior nursing students had a display about the sugar content in prepared foods. “We did a community project on obesity, and what stood out for us is the high consumption of soft drinks, which are very high in sugar,” said Brooke Byrd.

Molly Jacobs, former Senior Ms. Lumbee, gets a serving of quinoa salad from Sarah Carter, Chancellor Carter’s wife. Jacobs brought homemade turnip soup.

The project originated in Prof. Jennifer John’s Community Health class, and will result in a research paper. For the nurse candidates, the research and the experience of eating local foods was meaningful. “I tried fatback for the first time,” said Miranda Castaneda, who is a California native.

Students from a little closer to Pembroke, like Kelsey Cummings, were right at home with much of the food. Cummings, who is the reigning Miss UNCP, tried a few new things.

“I really liked the brown rice because I’ve never tried it this way,” said Kelsey Cummings. “It had raisins and walnuts in it. I went back for seconds.”

“They had mustard greens, so I had to get some of that,” Cummings said. “What is my advice on food? Eat cornbread; that what the Lumbees say.”

Destiny Oxendine, a student, talked about healthy cooking. “I like to cook just about anything,” Oxendine said. “My mom and dad tell me I could put a little more salt in my cooking. High blood pressure runs in my family, so…”

So while some healthy Native foodways remain, new and healthy ideas are creeping in thanks to events like this one.