Finding groceries can be difficult in many inner city neighborhoods, and in many rural areas the challenge can be even more daunting. Americans living in remote areas might easily spend half a day just making a grocery run. And for many Native Americans living on Indian reservations, simply getting to a place to purchase nutritious foods becomes a constant struggle.
Food security is a top priority for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Expanding access to nutritious food will not only empower American families to serve healthy meals to their children, but it will also help expand the demand for agricultural products.”
One program expanding access to nutritious foods is the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
(FDPIR). FDPIR was first authorized under the Food Stamp Act of 1977 to provide access to nutritious foods to low-income Native American households. FDPIR is administered locally by either Indian tribal organizations (ITOs) or an agency of a state government. Currently, there are about 276 tribes receiving benefits under FDPIR, with an average of 82,600 participants each month.
Because FDPIR is administered directly on Indian reservations, it can eliminate the need for recipients to travel great distances simply to acquire nutritious foods. Eligible participants are able to choose from over 70 food options that can be used to create meals that align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
. In Fiscal Year 2009, the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), which rates diets based on overall nutrition, rated the FDPIR food option package at 85.3 (an HEI score above an 80 is considered a healthy diet).
Leslie Wheelock is the Director of Tribal Relations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture