Sharing a Rich Tribal History Through Food
Eating at a Meeting Podcast Episode 63
Kristina Stanley, a member of the Red Cliff Lake Superior Chippewa, celebrates her indigenous heritage by creating, selling and promoting the use of food that features indigenous ingredients and tribally-sourced products to produce healthy meals.
In this episode of Eating at a Meeting celebrating Women’s History Month, learn how Kristina, through her plant-based company Abaaso Foods, her leadership role with I-Collective, and as Food & Culinary Program Manager for the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, she prioritizes balance and reciprocity with the earth, promotes healthy eating through nutrient-dense plant-based foods and champions for indigenous food sovereignty.
What do you do?
With the I-Collective I am a member of the Leadership team, and also the Project Manager for a virtual interactive cookbook and webinar series. With the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance I am the Food & Culinary Program Manager, where we are building an International Food Sovereignty Mentorship Program. I am the founder of Abaaso Foods ( a former full-service wholesale and catering company) where I now focus on consulting and contract work. I am also an Adjunct Instructor at Fox Valley Technical College in the Hospitality Program where I teach the capstone course for Meeting & Event Management Students.
How did you get here?
It has been a very long and difficult journey indeed. I have been working in kitchens and food service my entire life. Starting at various church, Jaycees, and VFW community meals which my family was very actively involved in. I looked forward to and celebrated these events and relished being in the kitchen with all of the adults and serving meals while bringing community together.
I began working in the Food Industry at 15 and have never left, and have worked in pretty much every restaurant position having a great love of both back of house and front of house. As a young adult I studied Ecopsychology at Northland College with an emphasis in horticulture therapy and sustainable Agriculture. It was there that I deepened my understanding of Global Food Systems, and made connections to food nutrition, access, sustainability, and sovereignty.
I was especially interested in how connecting with the land can impact psychological and spiritual well-being. After working in the restaurant industry for about 13 years I founded my own business providing nutrient dense plant-based foods to the Madison, WI area. My father is Ojibwe, but was adopted and raised away from his Ojibwe Community, so that culture was not a huge part of my life growing up. About 13 years ago my Father found and connected with his birth family, and we were enrolled in the tribe of his Mother (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa).
After some years re-connecting with this part of my identity, I was offered an opportunity to work as a contract chef for the Intertribal Agriculture Council. Through this opportunity I had the opportunity to further connect with Indigenous Foods and other Indigenous Chefs. I began to deepen my understanding and awareness of the pressing need to advocate for and build Food Sovereignty networks for Indigenous people. In 2018 I joined the I-Collective, and in 2021 I joined NAFSA.
How are you making a mark — HerStory — in the global food and beverage system to ensure it is safer, more sustainable and inclusive?
My focus has shifted to focus almost entirely on Food Sovereignty work for Indigenous People. With the I-Collective, we work to elevate and uplift Indigenous Narratives and build community resources for knowledge sharing and cultural preservation. I am currently the Project Manager for a program developing an Indigenous Interactive Virtual Cookbook and Webinar Series. With NAFSA, as the Food & Culinary Program Manager I oversee a Mentorship Program connecting Indigenous Food Sovereignty Knowledge Holders with mentees to build community and educational opportunities around Indigenous Foods. With Abaaso Foods I do menu and event consulting, as well as speaking and media engagements.
What are Your Greatest Career Accomplishments?
Starting my own business, and being recognized with local awards was a significant time for me. Realizing that the community was interested in supporting a food business with a primary focus on decadent yet truly nutritious foods was inspiring and empowering. When I first began cooking at and assisting with the organizing of Food Sovereignty events. This was a very formative time for me, and my career focus shifted greatly as my priorities changed significantly. I am just so grateful to be in the positions I am currently in, I have found my place (a little more behind the scenes, which I prefer). I am honored to have the capacity to be a community organize and use my skills and experience to bring like-minded individuals together and build a network for change.