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USDA Boosts Food Assistance for Tribes During Pandemic  

Press Release
Release No.
FNS 0009.20
Contact: FNS Press Team

WASHINGTON, DC, July 17, 2020 –In partnership with tribes across the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced additional food for families in the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The increased food assistance will temporarily supplement the monthly food package FDPIR households currently receive.

Funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, $50 million has been provided to ensure increased program participation would be covered during these uncertain times. Based on participation data and tribal engagement, today, USDA is announcing that this funding will also be used to support bonus packages for new and current participants over the coming months to best supplement nutrition needs in response to the pandemic.

“USDA has been in close communication with tribes throughout this pandemic and is committed to ensuring FDPIR participants have access to nutritious food,” said Pam Miller, Administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). “Many tribal nations have been especially hard hit and the supplemental food announced today is yet another way we are listening to our customers’ needs and delivering on our promise to serve program participants.”

“Working together with USDA and providing additional support for our participants has been invaluable while navigating through the impacts of COVID-19 that tribes are facing,” said Mary Greene-Trottier, President of the National Association of Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations.

Background

The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations provides USDA Foods to eligible households living on Indian reservations and to American Indian households residing in approved areas near reservations and in Oklahoma. Many households participate in FDPIR as an alternative to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) because they do not have easy access to SNAP offices or authorized food stores.

The additional food as part of this boost in assistance will be distributed to all FDPIR participants as funding allows. USDA continues to seek input from tribes to ensure the increased assistance includes a variety of USDA-purchased foods that support a nutritious diet. In addition to an assortment of USDA Foods, it will contain fresh fruits and vegetables ordered through USDA’s  DoD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense. 

This supplemental food is the latest in a series of actions FNS has taken to provide tribal nations with additional support across its nutrition assistance programs throughout this unprecedented public health crisis. USDA previously announced the first two rounds of CARES Act funding for COVID-related infrastructure costs, which has already provided approximately $32 million to tribes out of the available $50 million. USDA continues to work with tribes on applications for the remainder of the available funds. These grants can be used for a variety of infrastructure needs in response to COVID-19, such as personal protective equipment, freezers/coolers, mobile IT equipment, tailgate equipment, and vehicles for home deliveries. For a complete list of flexibilities and assistance provided to tribal nations in response to COVID-19, please visit the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service website. 

USDA has also published a final rule to further promote customer service in FDPIR, that formalizes two sought-after changes to FDPIR from the 2018 Farm Bill. These changes empower tribes and state agencies to administer the program effectively, efficiently, and in a way that best meets participants’ needs by:

  • Allowing state agencies and tribes up to two years to use FDPIR administrative funds, providing more stability and allowing for longer term planning; and
  • Providing tribes with more autonomy over how they administer FDPIR -- specifically in deciding who can sign requests seeking an administrative fund match waiver due to substantial burden to the tribe.

In addition to releasing the final rule, USDA also held a formal consultation earlier this week with tribal leaders on Section 4003(b) of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. This provision directed USDA to establish a demonstration project for one or more participating Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) to enter into self-determination contracts to purchase USDA Foods for their FDPIR program. This demonstration project aims to further self-governance for ITOs in procuring and distributing local, regional, and/or tribal foods for FDPIR.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy. Follow us on Twitter at @USDANutrition. 

 

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07/17/2020