EPA Awards Grants to Virginia Indian Tribes for Sustainable Materials Management

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe, of King William, VA, and the Chickahominy Indian Tribe and the Chickahominy Indian Tribe Eastern Division, both of Providence Forge, VA, have each been awarded grants to support diversion of food and other organic waste to composting programs instead of landfills. The projects also plan to increase the tribes’ access to locally grown foods and incorporate community engagement and educational initiatives.  

“We are very excited to work with our tribal partners in their efforts to sustainably manage food waste,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz. “Highlights of these projects include the development of community gardens that will yield fresh produce as well as opportunities to increase the communities’ awareness and implementation of food preservation practices.” 

The Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe will use the $25,000 in EPA funds to build a new composting program and establish a tribal community garden. The composting program plans to process materials from the Tribal Center, five King William County schools, and a local florist, while engaging community members with educational outreach. 

“We look forward to the opportunity of working with our Native community and business partners in removing food and organic waste from our landfills,” said Upper Mattaponi Assistant Chief Tommy Tupponce. “This community will be enriched by creating a more sustainable alternative for this waste through composting and supporting local food access through a tribal community garden.”

The Chickahominy Indian Tribe’s $25,000 project will include a community compost program alongside three themed gardens that will showcase a model produce garden for sale or home use, traditional Powhatan farming techniques, and the cultivation of items of cultural importance. Community engagement will include an emphasis on intergenerational activities, food waste prevention through canning, and increasing access to locally produced foods. 

“In the past, many of our families cultivated, gathered and ate a wide variety of foods including wild meats like venison and fish and a variety of fruits and vegetables,” said Tribal Environmental Director Dana Adkins. “Since those days, we have seen an increase in the consumption of fast food and in diseases such as diabetes. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the burden on our families of acquiring affordable fresh vegetables and fruits. This grant gives us the opportunity to educate our youth in the practices of food production, preparation and preservation methods that our elders once practiced.” 

The Chickahominy Indian Tribe Eastern Division’s proposed $15,959 garden and composting site will increase food availability to tribal citizens, create new composting capacity, and support citizens in learning cultural and long-term knowledge regarding food waste, production and healthy eating. Their garden will feature a greenhouse to extend their growing season into colder months. The compost generated will be used at the community garden.

“Uncertain times have left many Indigenous families in a position of food insecurity. Developing a sustainable materials management program through a community garden for the Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division will increase food availability to tribal citizens,” said Jessica Phillips, Tribal Environmental Director of the Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division. “It will also allow citizens to learn cultural and long-term knowledge regarding food waste, food production, and healthy eating.”