Navajo Nation Imposes Snack Tax

Navajo Nation Tribal President Ben Shelly signed legislation today, according to ABC News, which will impose a 2 percent sales tax increase on the sale of junk food on the nation’s largest reservation. The “Healthy Dine Nation Act of 2014” will remain in effect until 2020.

Last week, the Navajo Nation Council voted 10-4 to impose the tax contingent on Shelly’s agreement. The tax will be attached to junk foods including cookies, soda, and chips. NBC News cited a report by the American Diabetes Association which states American Indians and Alaskan Eskimos have the highest prevalence of diabetes among all ethnic groups in the United States. Native Americans are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to have diabetes, and it was the fourth leading cause of death in the Navajo area from 2003 to 2005, according to the Indian Health Service. Native children ages 10 to 19 are nine times as likely to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the IHS said.

Denisa Livingston, Council member, is excited.

“The Healthy Dine Nation Act is the beginning of addressing the dominate culture of unhealthy foods on our Navajo Nation, while creating opportunity for health and wellness initiatives across all chapters.”

ABC News reports the revenue generated by the new tax will go into a Community Wellness Development Projects Fund. The Navajo Nation Division of Community Development will channel the funds, raised by the tax, to various projects among the Navajo nation’s 110 chapters. These projects will include farmers’ markets, vegetable gardens and exercise equipment. The Dine Community Advocacy Alliance estimated a junk-food tax would result in at least $1 million a year in revenue.

The Tribal Council has attempted previously to pass a similar law, most recently in April, but met with resistance from Shelly, who vetoed the proposal. Shelly supported the intent of the legislation, but was concerned with how it would be enacted and implemented on foods high in fats, sugars, and salt. Shelly’s signature on the “Healthy Dine Nation Act of 2014” is a significant victory for the Council, which is working diligently to improve the health and status of the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation has been involved in other community building projects as well, as reported earlier by the Inquisitr.

The tax will not add significantly to the price of junk food on the reservation. Buying food on the reservation is difficult. The reservation is over 27,000 square miles with few grocery stores. There is a 50 percent unemployment rate, and many residents live without electricity and storing perishable foods is difficult.