Lawmakers Push for Indian Country Access to Nutritious Meals for Native Students
Limited access to affordable and nutritious food in Indian Country puts Native children at a high risk of hunger and nutrition-related diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Insufficient access to fresh and healthy food options continues to be an issue on at least 60 reservations in the U.S., and as a result, occurrences of nutrition-related diseases are still high among Native Americans. A group of lawmakers -- including Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Congressmen Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), and Congresswoman Debra Haaland (D-NM) -- aim to reduce this risk with the Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act. “Far too many Native American children struggle with food insecurity and obesity. Congress needs to be making it easier, not harder, for Tribal nutrition programs to operate in their communities,” said Assistant Speaker Luján. The legislation would give tribes the authority to directly administer programs such as the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program -- which is especially important for tribes like the Navajo Nation, who straddle New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah and must otherwise go through state agencies to access these resources. “It is common sense that tribes should be empowered to directly manage and deliver these important programs,” said Cortez Masto. Haaland, Co-Chair of the Native American Caucus, said, “No matter where a child lives, they should not have to worry about where their next meal comes from. However, the limitations that Tribes have to administer food assistance programs for kids make food insecurity a persistent problem in Indian Country.” Grijalva added, “By removing state governments as an intermediary and allowing tribes the ability to determine their own nutritional programs, tribes will be able to respect their cultural food traditions and keep their communities healthy.” Joining Cortez Mastro in the bill’s introduction in the upper chamber were Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tina Smith (D-MN). More here.