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The FDPIR Foods Will Now Be Subject to More Tribal Control |Updated


As a child, Joe VanAlstine relied on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As a member of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians Food Distribution Program, he has taken on a new role.

When the Food Stamp Act allowed it, the program got underway, providing an alternative to food stamps for persons living in tribal areas. The USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations provides the “commodity food,” as some still refer to it, to the Indian Reservations.

The FDPIR Foods Will Now Be Subject to More Tribal Control |Updated

According to VanAlstine, “We used to get those actual food stamps with the colorful money. “This was a regular occurrence when I was a kid. We ate canned pork and beef because it was convenient, but it was harmful. Now that the National Association of Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations has been established in order to address this, we’ve done a great deal of policy work in order to include fresh produce in this program as well.”

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A group of tribe representatives hoped that the USDA, which was in charge of the program, would listen to their concerns. They came together to help the tribes reintroduce their traditional meals.

Fresh vegetables became an aim with the purchase of bison from Great Plains.

Fresh fruit, low sodium food, low-fat food, and healthy selections are all on the menu for students, says VanAlstine.

Eight of the 276 tribes in the United States that run the program will soon be able to choose and purchase their own food from local and tribally owned food businesses, thanks to a recent 638 authorization that gives them direct control over the administration of programs, services, and functions that were previously provided by the federal government.

The FDPIR Foods Will Now Be Subject to More Tribal Control |Updated

There have been no previous attempts by the USDA to use money from 638 contracts to determine how it might better suit our requirements, according to VanAlstine. There is a 300-acre farm owned by the tribe that is growing their own food. This program would benefit greatly if we were able to acquire that produce and use it. There is no need for us to go over 800-miles to bring the produce here, and we have no idea how long it took to get there.”

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More than a quarter of all Native Americans are now receiving some form of federal food aid.

Optional Foods from Local Farms

According to VanAlstine, several of these tribes are “extremely isolated.” Because of this, they were placed on reservations where they were deprived of their customary cuisine.

Indigenous peoples were forcibly uprooted from their homes and customary diets as part of the Treaty of 1836. The authorities instead rationed their food.

When we started eating food that our bodies were not used to, “it produced a lot of dependency on the food and its food that our bodies were never used to eating,” explains VanAlstine.

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The best food is now within reach thanks to new contracts that allow tribes to select their own suppliers. Cooking lessons and FDPIR cookbooks based on healthful, traditional meals are planned by LTTBOI.

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