Navajo Nation Council Passes Junk Food Bill

Jan 31, 2014

The Navajo Nation Council approved a bill Thursday to raise the sales tax on junk food and lower the tax on fruits and veggies.

The Navajo Nation is attempting to raise awareness of the obesity epidemic on the reservation by raising the sales tax on junk food.

Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, has ten days to approve or veto the bill said Denisa Livingston, a presenter of legislation of the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance.

She said 99 percent of the Navajo Nation lives in a "food desert" -- an area where it is fresh food is hard to obtain -- and she hopes the tax changes will raise awareness about the epidemic of diabetes and obesity experienced on the reservation.

“A large percentage at these stores is junk food,” Livingston said.  “For one store, it was up to 80 percent junk food. So, we really wanted to raise awareness, and we decided to do that through the tax.”

If the president signs the bills, the junk food tax will be raised 2 percent more than the current 5 percent tax.

“One-hundred percent of the revenue is geared toward community based, community directed wellness projects,” Livingston said. “The money will be distributed to the 110 chapters across the reservation.”

She said hopes years down the road, the Navajo Nation will set the standard of healthy living in the U.S., especially for other tribes.

“I believe that healthy food access is about social justice,” Livingston said.

Morgan Pratt is a sophomore at Utah State University seeking a degree in Journalism and Communications.