University students support tribal youth promoting traditional foods

One of the most abundant, nutritious, and freely available foods in California falls on the ground every autumn, and while the squirrels, woodpeckers, and several hundred other species take notice, very few humans still do.


Acorns were the original all-purpose mush, providing protein, carbohydrates, fats, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and niacin. Stripped of their outer shell and inner skin, pounded and ground, soaked in water to release the bitter tannins, dried, and carefully stored, acorn flour could last months until the next acorn processing.

Nowadays few people go to the effort of making acorn flour into mush, yet when they do, and bring the dish to a tribal gathering, it is fully appreciated, especially by tribal elders.

In Santa Rosa, the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center is working with tribal youth to develop an ACORN* energy bar ” to make it possible for California Indians and everyone to be able to eat acorns daily while advancing the acorn ways of our tribal communities.”

*ACORN stands for Advancing Cultural Opportunities to Reclaim NutritionACORN ENERGY BARS are “made with acorn meal and other organic, gluten-free ingredients representing the bounty of California.”

SJSU student fundraiser acorn bars

As their GoFundMe campaign website explains, “Healthy eating is a critical issue in our communities. You may not know that 1 in 9 Native people in California have diabetes, mainly Type II. [D]iabetes in our communities is associated with dietary/nutritional choices and physical inactivity. Healthy eating and exercise can help prevent diabetes and control it. Incorporating traditional foods in our diets is extremely important but not always possible for us in contemporary life. This is where ACORN comes in by contributing and facilitating consumption of a nutritive meal made with traditional foods.”

This Fall semester at San José State University, a student group in our Nature and World Cultures class – Jaime Allen, Johanna Lundsford, and Van Nguyen, held a fundraiser on campus to earn money for this project. Prior to the fundraiser, the group attended cultural events at the Museum and the California Indian Heritage Center in Sacramento while researching traditional acorn processing. The fundraiser fulfilled the group’s goal of actively contributing to biocultural diversity conservation – in this case, supporting tribal youth in reviving an ancient food packaged within a modern-day product.

The GoFundMe campaign continues, and welcomes donations. For more information, see CIMCC or visit the Museum at 5250 Aero Drive, Santa Rosa, California, (707) 579-3004, M – F 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

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