Last week, Acumen and The Rockefeller Foundation released the names of 22 emerging leaders from around the world who were chosen to take part in their inaugural food systems fellowship. Among those selected is Matthew Wilson, the Director of the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative (SFSI) and enrolled citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
According to a joint release from the co-sponsors The Rockefeller Foundation-Acumen Food Systems Fellowship was designed to create system-level impact in food over the long term. It is a one-year program supporting a cohort of individuals who can see the complexity of food systems and have the ability to influence them at multiple levels to drive meaningful change for their community.
“The current food system for Lakota people is doing exactly what it was designed to do, which is to make us unhealthy and dependent,” said Wilson. “We need to get back to our Lakota teachings and understand that everything is connected and that food is medicine for our mind, body, and spirit, and can be for our land.”
The food system fellowship is designed to provide professional development so that Wilson and the other emerging leaders gain the skills and perspectives needed to enact that change. With the support of trained facilitators and world class experts, the fellows will participate in a blend of immersive seminars, workshops, and self-directed leadership experiments to support their food systems work. Leveraging the principles of moral leadership, they’ll unlock their leadership potential and reimagine ways of creating more inclusive, nourishing, and regenerative food systems.
“I’m honestly still kind of in shock,” said Wilson. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from experienced food system leaders around the world, and then bring that knowledge back home to Rosebud to help our people.”
As the Director of the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative, Wilson and his team have spent countless hours crafting and refining their 7Gen Food System Vision. The vision is a set of goals and strategies aimed at “Indigenizing” the food system. “We envision a 7Gen Food System that facilitates Wicozani and Sicangu sovereignty, now, and for future generations,” said Wilson. “But we know that we can’t just think about these goals and strategies once and expect it all to happen. We have to keep building, growing, and challenging ourselves in new ways.”
The work of the 7Gen Food System can already be seen across Rosebud in many different ways. The work supports consumers by increasing access to fresh and healthy foods. SFSI operates the weekly Sicangu Harvest Farmers’ Market and mobile farmers’ market which run throughout the growing season. Additionally, they have launched a subscription box program and collaborate on food prescription and farm-to-table programs. Their Keya Wakpala Farm, which is a small-scale regenerative production site, produces food for community consumption and also serves as a teaching garden for interns and food entrepreneurs.
“In order to be truly sovereign, we have to be able to feed ourselves,” said Wilson. “We have a long way to go toward that goal, but receiving recognition like this fellowship shows that we are on the right track.”