A painted wall featuring a bison and bird.

NDSU Partners With Tribal Communities to Build Healthier Communities

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NDSU is working with Standing Rock and Turtle Mountain communities to address food access issues and promote physical activity. The project is supported by a five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address obesity-related challenges in communities with adult obesity rates over 40%. In North Dakota, Rolette County and Sioux County passed this threshold.

“The Healthy Outcomes Project (HOP) was built on existing and new partnerships and relied on community input to co-create efforts that are locally meaningful and designed to be sustainable even when the grant funding is complete,” says Megan Ditterick, program director for the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and Family Nutrition Program and HOP principal investigator.

NDSU helped support coalition development through the coordination of existing committees while acknowledging community assets and expertise. Each coalition had the opportunity to select and implement strategies based on the identified needs and existing capital of their community. Strategies were focused on culturally responsive food access through a food sovereignty lens and physical activity promotion.

One such project was a community mural festival held in Fort Yates in partnership with the Standing Rock Community Development Corporation. The festival brought community members together to enjoy the creation of 14 murals celebrating their culture, food sovereignty and physical activity. Standing Rock community artists and mural artists from Babe Walls co-created the murals to become focal points for a larger beautification effort aimed at encouraging walking and biking in the community.

Additional projects have included leveraging the knowledge and experience of indigenous gardeners and local Extension agents to establish community gardens and hydroponic host sites in both communities. To date, 16 gardens and more than a dozen hydroponic sites have begun growing fresh produce that is donated to local senior living centers, food pantries, schools and other group meal settings.

Now in the final year of the grant, project leaders are focused on strengthening the foundation that has been established so the work can continue in a meaningful way for years to come.


Megan Ditterick, 701-231-6515,

The mural pictured above was painted by artists Shauna Elk and Kaitlin Ziesmer.