Assessment of Food Concerns, Nutrition Knowledge, and Food Security of Oglala Lakota College Students on the Pine Ridge Reservation

Year: 1999

Research Center: American Indian Studies Program, The University of Arizona

Investigator: Henry, Leslie Rae, Rhonda Bear-Little Boy, and Brian Dodge

Institution: Oglala Lakota College

Project Contact:
Leslie Rae Henry
Oglala Lakota College
Agriculture & Natural Resource Department
P.O. Box 490
Kyle, SD 57752-0490


Students from five educational sites on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (in South Dakota) were surveyed: Pine Ridge College Center, Pine Ridge; Wounded Knee College Center, Manderson; Pahin Sinte College Center, Porcupine; LaCreek College Center, Martin; and East Wakpamni College Center, Batesland. The interviews, conducted in 1999, included general demographic background questions, multipart interest/needs questions, questions related to current food understanding, and questions related to food adequacy.

Overall, the survey results show Oglala Lakota College (OLC) students are five times more likely to be food insecure with hunger than the national average of 3.5 percent for all households reported by the Economic Research Service for 1998. The authors suggest further research to determine if this level of food insecurity affects academic performance. Students from the Wounded Knee College Center were eight times more likely to be food insecure than the national average.

At the Pine Ridge College Center, 30 percent of the students stated that they consumed the same thing for several days in a row because they had only a few different kinds of food on hand and no money to buy more. This result was surprising because the Pine Ridge College Center houses the largest supermarket on the reservation, and is located within 2 miles of two other grocery stores.

“Feeding self and family” was the primary concern of OLC students, with employment and housing being tied for second place for needs/interests. Employment was the greatest financial need, with “feeding self and family” second. Parents were the number one source of information for feeding students and family; second was a dietitian or nutritionist. Less than 10 percent of OLC students utilized USDA extension programs for information. Parents were ranked the highest (70 percent) in terms of trustworthiness of the information provided.

Thirty-three percent of OLC students surveyed could not pick out which package of chicken was the best buy. Over 12 percent of OLC students surveyed did not understand why hot foods should be kept hot and cold foods cold. Over 86 percent did not know how many servings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta are recommended for adults, teens, and children daily. Sixteen percent stated incorrectly that physical activity did not count unless you worked up a sweat. Also, 12.4 percent did not know that some form of physical activity is needed at least four times per week for overall good health.

The authors suggest that the new extension education program in holistic human health at OLC, with assistance from other land-grant universities, could coordinate educational activities to improve OLC students’ knowledge of nutrition and health issues identified in the survey.