Letter to the editor: Junk food tax a step in the right direction
To the editor:
On the Navajo Nation, our Diné people have been suffering from the epidemic of obesity and diabetes. This suffering has become almost normal for many of our people - this reality needs to change. Last week, the 22nd Navajo Nation Council enacted two pieces of legislation pursued by the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance to eliminate sales tax on healthy foods and to implement a tax on unhealthy foods known as the Healthy Diné Nation Act. It is very encouraging that the Healthy Diné Nation Act is focused on healthy living for our Diné people.
As a Navajo Zumba fitness instructor on the reservation, I am continuously inspired by my students of all ages from as young as 5 to as old as 65. They are examples of the Diné people who are working hard to pursue active healthy lifestyles. I see more community members interested in exercise and fitness but the environment is sometimes not supportive. Our community stores are bombarded with junk food, processed foods, and packaged foods that do not provide adequate nutrition for our children, teenagers, families, elders and my students. Not only is our community in need of healthy foods but so is our entire reservation - we need fresh, quality, and healthy foods widely available and affordable.
I understand not everyone is going to exercise and pursue fitness activities, so I believe it is very relevant to start addressing our fast food and junk food centered diet. We can approach our reservation-wide health problems by eating more colorful, nutritious and healthy food. This is a start to help our people recognize that we need to go back to the ways of our elders - eating locally grown foods, gardening, farming, ranching - while getting plenty of exercise.
We have the answer to health right in front of us. I commend companies like the Navajo Engineering Construction Authority (NECA) that are integrating fitness classes and health education classes for its employees. We need to take responsibility of our health problems and start implementing solutions so that we can have a healthy future.
The two pieces of legislation are one way we can start reclaiming our health and we can set the standard for other tribes to follow our healthy lead. This is a very sensitive and historical time so I am kindly asking and pleading for President Shelly to sign the two pieces of legislation into law.
It is important to see initiatives like these to start impacting our reservation so we can start reversing sickness and disease. It is due time for us to be healthy like our elders once were so we can dance to a lifetime of health.
Shiprock, New Mexico