Minneapolis chefs serve Native American elders during COVID-19 pandemic

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Chefs of the Gatherings Cafe at the Minneapolis American Indian Center have been working every weekday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., preparing healthy and delicious meals for the elderly in their community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chefs of the Gatherings Cafe at the Minneapolis American Indian Center have been preparing healthy and delicious meals for the elderly in their community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emil Liden, a senior at Minnetonka High School this fall, produced this photo essay earlier this month during ThreeSixty Journalism’s 2020 Digital Media Arts Camp, in partnership with the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and Padilla. Health equity was the theme, with a focus on racism as a public health issue.

AUTHOR REFLECTION

Brian Yazzie is a chef at the Minneapolis American Indian Center and runs the “Elder Meal Program,” which feeds the elderly of the Native American community around the Twin Cities.

I had the honor of meeting Brian, along with another chef, Vanessa, and Ben, who started the Elder Meal Program back in March.

During my visit to the center, I was able to capture Brian and Vanessa in action as they prepared food. Brian’s work with the Elder Meal Program is important for many reasons.

First, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the Native American community across the country and especially here in the Twin Cities.

Second, the elderly are at a higher risk of death from COVID-19 and are among the most vulnerable when it comes to this deadly virus.

Lastly, the Native American tradition of caring for the elderly is something that Brian and those at the Minneapolis American Indian Center hold dear to their hearts.

Moreover, there is a community-oriented mindset when it comes to service that is so present at the center.

This is perhaps what was most moving during my time at the center. Not only did Brian and the other chefs hold great respect for their elders, but they also felt a duty as young people to take care of those who cared for them. It is this sort of mindset that I feel is most compelling when I tell this story and it is what I feel is most important for the viewer to take away.

I want to thank Brian and his team of chefs for welcoming me into their kitchen and allowing me to hear and photograph their story.

Through this photo essay, I want to recognize the incredible work the everyone at the Minneapolis American Indian Center is doing for their community. I encourage everyone to follow their example and take action to help those around you who are struggling during these difficult times.