Healthy Native Foods in a Rural Convenience Store Setting

Year: 2008

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

Investigator: Secakuku, Susan, Suzanne Jamison, and Isaura Andaluz

Institution: Sipaulovi Development Corporation, Hopi Sipaulovi Village

Project Contact:
Susan Secakuku
Secakuku Consulting
P.O. Box 548
Second Mesa, AZ 86043
Phone: 928-737-2510 or 928-606-6285


The Sipaulovi Development Corporation (SDC) is a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation of Hopi Sipaulovi Village, an autonomous Village of the Hopi Tribe. SDC developed a model to demonstrate that convenience stores with fast food components can profitably source, offer, and promote a range of healthy food choices that are based in traditional Hopi foods and culture. Moreover, this project determined the best avenues for incorporating locally sourced ingredients into these tradition-based foods that can be offered in a “fast food” setting. The project targeted the health and nutrition issues faced by the working poor who have limited access to healthy foods and limited food dollars to spend. The model included real-world sourcing, pricing, and educational and outreach ideas to help develop a sustainable project that would benefit the community.

The methods used to determine the information in this study were a strategic planning session, interviews, a qualitative questionnaire, and documentation of many meetings with project partners.

Defining the terms “food” and “healthy food” provided a scope within which to work. The project defined “food” as nourishment for the body. “Healthy food” was determined to have the following qualities: not processed, natural, organically grown, positively impacts the environment, locally produced, and the source or traceability of the ingredients or products are known. Cooking methods also were used to define “healthy food.” Healthy cooking methods include baking, boiling, steaming, roasting, or drying.

Rationale for determining which of the many traditional Hopi foods that would be part of the study included seasonality of Hopi food within the parameters of the definition of “healthy food,” existing foods that are familiar but not necessarily made too often, and those foods not yet found on a menu in an existing Hopi restaurant.

The study resulted in the development of recipes of five traditional Hopi foods. Recipes were created for Sakwaviqaviki (blue corn tortilla), Sakwats’tsilsomiviki (blue corn tamale), Pivlak’kutuki (roasted piiki), Somiviki (sweet blue corn bread), and Hohoysi (wild herbal tea).

Taste testing of these Hopi foods by individuals who reside in the local, projected market helped the study gauge the authenticity of the taste of the recipes. Local citizens also provided opinions of possible cost factors and offered existing assumptions or attitudes of health factors associated with these foods, such as Hopi foods were considered healthy because they were made with natural or local ingredients (51 percent), not processed (25 percent), and not fried or contain fat (16 percent). Additionally, 89 percent of the respondents stated that the “availability of product was the primary determinant in purchasing traditional foods” and that they would purchase the foods if available in a convenience store.

The study identified existing sources that could supply large amounts of ingredients needed to produce a high volume of these healthy food products. Websites were researched to determine existing suppliers, the amount of ingredients available for sale, and the cost of the products.

Several recent, major studies of the food and health of the Hopi community have provided very informative and relevant information, some of which has led to community-based healthy initiatives. Data from those studies have helped to direct the educational campaign of this study, which will be part of the future in-house marketing and outreach plan for the Hopi Marketplace. Input from the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program of the Hopi Health Care Center and the Hopi Tribe Diabetes Program will also impact the scope of the educational campaign. Several ideas relevant to a convenience store setting have been determined with regard to eating habits and purchasing habits.

Direct inquiries about this study to the Project Contact listed above.