Over the past three days Food Safety News has chronicled the nutritional challenges facing Native Americans today and what is being done to face them. On Wednesday, after this series was published, the Obama Administration announced this year’s recipients of an annual grant to improve nutritional education in Native American communities.

At a meeting of the National Congress of American Indians Wednesday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that 17 tribes will receive additional funding for nutrition education programs this year. 

Obesity and diabetes are a growing concern among today’s Native American populations, and research is now showing that these conditions are affecting tribal members at younger and younger ages. 

Nutrition education is a key component to combatting this trend, because it helps children form healthy eating habits early on. 


This year the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through its Food and Nutrition Service, is pledging more than $850,000 to boost federally funded nutrition education programs for Native Americans. This figure is down slightly from the just over $979,000 given to this cause in the 2011 fiscal year

The educational programs are funded through the Federal Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), which provides food commodities for impoverished Native Americans. Food packages are delivered to pick-up sites or brought to recipients’ homes, depending on the tribal program.

The grant will benefit the educational arm of this program by providing a recipe toolkit containing menus, shopping lists and snack ideas featuring more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It will also help fund nutrition education sessions held during scheduled food deliveries for participants in remote reservation areas and establish community gardens to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption.  

“USDA is committed to working with tribal communities to drive economic growth, create opportunities through business and agriculture, and to improve the health and well-being of native families,” said Vilsack. “These grants will help tribal communities promote healthy kids and healthy families by making sure they have access to nutritious food, education and the support they need to ensure healthy habits. With that winning combination we can help to reduce and prevent childhood obesity and ensure a stronger future for Indian country.”

The recipients of the 2012 grant include:

Alaska Native Health Consortium (Anchorage, Alas.), $62,500

Hoopa Valley Food Distribution Program (Hoopa, Calif.), $52,804

Sherwood Valley Food Program (Willets, Calif.), $36,711

Quechan Food Distribution Department (Winterhaven, Calif.), $10,811

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (Cass Lake, Minn.), $45,703

Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation (Box Elder, Mont.), $85,805

Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (Pablo, Mont.), $78,738

The Chickasaw Nation (Ada, Okla.), $115,021

Cheyenne and Arapaho Food Distribution Program (Watonga, Okla.), $41,786

Seminole Nation of Oklahoma (Wewoka, Okla.), $17,749

Zuni Tribe of the Zuni Indian Reservation, (Zuni, N.M.), $18,489

Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Mountain Plains Nutrition Advisory Committee (Pine Ridge, S.D.), $45,000

Lummi Indian Business Council (Bellingham, Wash.), $79,931

South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency (Shelton, Wash.), $41,108

Red Cliff Band of Chippewa Indians Food Distribution Program for the Midwest Nutrition Advisory Committee (Bayfield, Wis.), $93,907 

Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin (Keshena, Wis.), $45,860

Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (Lac du Flambeau, Wis.), $39,950