Tina Whitegeese (Santa Clara/Pojoaque Pueblos), Community Outreach Coordinator
Q: How did you get involved with Mogro?
A: I was looking for something that would impact Native people in a positive way. MoGro was looking for a champion to help distribute food at the Indian Hospital. Fruits and vegetables are a part of healthy living but, unfortunately, a lot of Native people don’t get enough. We sometimes think about cheaper, faster, more convenient, and not everybody has access, time or resources to grow their own or get fresh food. Many health afflictions—diabetes, heart problems, obesity—get treated with medications, but I like the idea of food as medicine. I really connect with people talking about food, especially the more exotic ones, and how to use them.
Q: How do you see MoGro being most impactful in the communities you serve?
A: We provide access to people who may not otherwise get all this variety of fresh food. We work with small farmers and Native farmers who have more food than they’re able to use or trade with neighbors. They feel good about selling their products to people who really want and need it.
Q: How do you purchase food from Native farmers while respecting that food is not traditionally viewed as a commodity?
A: It doesn’t feel right to charge for something you have bountiful amounts of. I don’t think that’s a strictly Native concept; I think it’s a concept of community. A lot of Native farmers don’t see themselves as commercial farmers; the way their food gets shared is not a cash transaction. We approach them with the idea that if they have enough extra for us to be able to buy and share with others, having people eat their food is healthier and better than from some large commercial enterprise.
Q: What barriers does MoGro encounter in getting food from local farmers out to the community?
A: Government regulations around food safety. It can be hard for smaller farmers to get the certifications needed to sell their food. Access is also a challenge. People can’t get to fresh fruits and vegetables in their own communities, so it’s important that we have our distributions where they’re most needed. But we have limited points and times. Variety is a challenge as well. Some weeks and through the winter, all local farmers have is lettuce, so we have to source from outside to get the products our customers want. The higher cost of local foods is also difficult. We provide our fresh fruit and vegetable bags to SNAP recipients at a low cost, so it’s difficult to be sustainable when we’re spending more on products.
Q: Where does MoGro excel?
A: Consistency. We’re always in the same place week after week, so word gets out and people get to know us. Through social media postings, people know to stop by even if they haven’t ordered ahead. We reach out to people who are on food assistance and make sure they have access. Everyone at MoGro has a sincere intent to keep their community healthy with unprocessed fruits and vegetables.
Q: What helps you and MoGro be successful?
A: Funding. Refrigerated trucks, staffing and food all cost money, so it helps support all the work. Relationships are also important. Knowing, as a MoGro Food Champion, who to talk to, and establishing a level of trust that extends, for example, from every patient at the Indian Hospital up through the doctors.
Q: Where would you like to see MoGow in the future?
A: We’d like to get more customers who can afford a full-price bag to help support the price- reduced ones.
Q: What is your one wish for something that would help MoGro?
A: For more people to recognize how important this type of program is and how it makes such a difference for people to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. I want more people to know that it impacts their neighbors, their patients, whomever, and see that it is a solution.
If you are interested in getting a MoGro bag, call 505-216-8611, email email@example.com or visit www.mogro.net.