If you Google “Lowest Income Counties in the United States” you will get a list of the 100 poorest counties in the country by per capita income. Of the ten lowest income counties, eight are Native American communities, and fully six of them (highlighted here in yellow) are on the reservations of one single tribe: the Lakota Sioux. Number 2 on the list is Shannon County, located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This is where Conscious Alliance began its initial food relief efforts, and has since maintained a year-round emergency food pantry for over seven years.
Per capita income in Shannon County is $6,286 per year. The unemployment rate on Pine Ridge Reservation is between 80-85%, and 49% of the population lives under the poverty level. Food insecurity is rampant. This is primarily due to the extreme economic isolation of the reservation.
Conscious Alliance began and expanded as a hunger relief organization. In addition to alleviating hunger on a national level, we also serve Native American reservations, which are among the most economically isolated communities in the United States. Conscious Alliance initially began its food relief efforts on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and has since maintained a year-round emergency food pantry in the community for over seven years.
Through the generosity of our supporters, we have been able to keep our emergency food bank consistently stocked on Pine Ridge Reservation. We have also successfully expanded our outreach to other reservations and communities as well, working closely with partners on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana and locally in Colorado. Recognizing that emergency food relief—while necessary—is insufficient alone to improve conditions in these communities, we have gradually evolved our mission to include efforts at youth empowerment.
We strive to effectively address the current conditions of life for Native and non-native youth on these reservations and communities, thus providing sustainable solutions for the future. Alcoholism, substance abuse, gang activity, and teen suicide are prevalent in these communities, but hope is not lost. We feel the best solution is to develop supportive programming for youth that provides them a creative outlet to inspire others and thrive. Through creative means such as art and music, we hope to empower the younger generation to become leaders in their community and connect them to their identities and culture.
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