Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday to extend federal child nutrition assistance programs to children in Native American tribes.
Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), along with Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), unveiled the Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act of 2015 to allow tribes to participate in federal programs that help supply children with nutritious foods.
They include the school breakfast and lunch programs, the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which serves children in at-risk after school programs, at child care centers, in home day care and emergency shelters, as well as adults in adult day care centers.
The lawmakers said Native American children suffer from food insecurity and obesity at rates twice the national average. To address that problem, their bill would add federally recognized Indian Tribes to the list of governments authorized to administer the programs. Tribes now must go through state agencies for assistance.
“Native American kids are at a disadvantage without access to healthy, well-rounded meals,” Tester said in a statement. “We can’t expect them to do their best if they’re hungry or lacking proper nutrition.”
Tribal and community organizations like the National Congress of American Indians and New Mexico Appleseed have endorsed the bill.
“One of the most difficult issues facing American Indians and Alaska Natives is food security,” Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, said in a release. “For many of our Native youth, the meals they receive at school are sometimes the only food they have access to on a consistent basis.”