Rural communities have issues getting fresh nutritious foods in the best of circumstances. But in Native communities, it can sometimes be next to impossible especially if you are on a fixed income.
The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, or "The Farm Bill", was revamped and signed into law in late December to include more provisions that assert Native sovereignty. The Native Farm Bill Coalition advocated for more Native inclusion in the bill that helps with nutrition assistance, rural development, and commodity funding.
The 2018 Farm Bill now gives more power to tribal governments to help provide higher quality food for tribal citizens. Tribal governments can now enter into tribal sovereignty contracts with the USDA and this could help make nutritious options more available.
Colby Duren is the director of Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative in Arkansas that works with tribal affiliates to assist in the implementation of healthy food systems. Duren thinks this bill is crucial to the development of rural Native communities.
"So this will be something that will really help tribal governments to continue to expand within self-governance." Duren said, "And also being able to help support the growth of healthy, sustainable food systems in Indian country."
He said tribal governments directly buying from regional farmers can potentially benefit both Native producers and consumers and includes potential improvements to the commodity box food program.
"That would allow those tribal organizations that run those programs that purchase the different types of foods that their tribal citizens want in there." Duren explained, "To purchase them both regionally and locally. So, hopefully, that includes the ability to have more healthy traditional foods in those food packages."
The Farm bill also included resources to help tribal governments become more included in the Local Agriculture Marketing Program. This would help more Native producers sell at farmers markets or start their own market where there might not have been one in the past.