WASHINGTON - The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) selected the Navajo Nation to receive a $2.4 million award to start a two-year Food Access Navigator pilot project. The project will address food gaps and improve local economies in four or five chapters in the Eastern Navajo, Fort Defiance, and Shiprock agencies on the Navajo Nation.
The grant allows the Navajo Nation to create 19 jobs in the Navajo Nation Department of Health to develop anti-hunger policies and best practices throughout the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation will hire and train people called Food Access Navigators to promote access to anti-hunger and healthy food programs. These programs s include school meals, food stamps, food distribution, and the Women, Infants and Children Program.
Speaking on a March 2 live USDA radio program, Vice President Rex Lee Jim thanked USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Kevin Concannon, under secretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services, for their leadership to end child hunger.
"Rural and tribal communities have unique barriers that prevent them from participating in USDA food and feeding programs," Jim said. "There are many logistical issues we need to overcome."
New Mexico Appleseed, a non-profit organization, will provide training for staff and will produce training materials, and provide ongoing technical assistance to the project.
Made possible by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the projects target areas or populations with elevated levels of food insecurity or gaps in nutrition assistance program coverage. The Act requires at least one project be carried out on an Indian reservation in a rural area with a service population having a prevalence of diabetes that exceeds 15 percent.