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USDA Highlights the Launch of Let's Move! in Indian Country

Release No.

USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2011 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today applauded The Office of the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative and the launch of Let's Move! in Indian Country (LMIC). LMIC is an effort designed to support and advance the work that tribal leaders and community members are already doing to improve the health of American Indian and Alaska Native children. As a part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative, LMIC brings together federal agencies, communities, nonprofits, corporate partners, and tribes to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in Indian Country within a generation by everyone playing a role. The launch was held at the Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wisconsin.

"This is a special day for the Tribes and for USDA. Let's Move! in Indian Country, will help promote healthy eating and physical activity among Native Americans and is an important part of the effort to reduce teen and childhood obesity rates," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "USDA is committed to working with native communities to create a healthy start for children, and providing the nutrition assistance that will lead to healthy lives."

The Let's Move! in Indian Country initiative seeks to support and advance the work that Tribal leaders and community members are already doing to improve the health of Native American children. As a part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative, LMIC brings together federal agencies, communities, nonprofits, corporate partners, and tribes to mitigate childhood obesity in Indian Country within a generation.

USDA continues to work with tribal governments to expand their access to the full range of USDA programs by supporting and establishing local and regional food systems. USDA is helping build strong and resilient American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian farming and ranching enterprises that will create jobs and strong economies in Native communities across the country. Additionally, the department is collaborating to increase the number of food policy councils in Indian Country to improve food production opportunities and the availability of locally grown foods.

"We are committed to working with Tribal nations to improving access to healthy, affordable foods on Indian Reservations and tribal lands," said Janie Hipp, Director of USDA's Office of Tribal Relations, "Let's Move! in Indian Country will help support and expand efforts on the ground that will make great strides in improving the nutrition and health of tribal members."

USDA has a long history of supporting the goals of LMIC by working with Tribal nations through a variety of rural development and nutrition assistance programs including the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). LMIC will build on the success of these widely used programs and focus on expanding participation in other federal nutrition programs including the School Breakfast Program, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program which provides healthy snacks to school children, the Child and Adult Care Food Program which can now reimburse schools and afterschool programs providing an evening meal, and the Summer Food Service Program which feeds children and teens when school is out. Additionally, our Rural Development Programs have financed numerous projects in Indian Country, ranging from teacher housing to small businesses such as restaurants and grocery stores.

The goals of LMIC are complemented by USDA's efforts including:

Creating a healthy FDPIR food package

  • To improve the FDPIR food package, USDA has taken a number of actions to increase the nutritional quality of FDPIR food offerings, including a 1995 partnership with the Department of Defense to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables for the distribution on almost 100 reservations. This past year alone, USDA worked with DOD to expand the number of fresh fruit and vegetable offerings in the food package from 23 to 35. New items offered include avocados, seedless grapes, cherries, kiwi, honey dew melon, nectarines, and plums. The FDPIR Food Package serves over, 70,000 people each month in Indian Country.
  • A recent nutritional analysis concluded that individuals consuming FDPIR foods would achieve a Healthy Eating Index score of 81 out of 100, well above the average American diet. (58 out of 100). This underscores the program's success in providing a benefit to FDPIR clients that is not only cost-effective but nutritionally effective.

Grants to develop creative, self-initiated nutrition projects

  • In April, USDA announced that 15 Indian Tribal Organizations were selected to receive approximately $1 million in grants this year. The grants will help develop creative, self-initiated projects designed to enhance the nutrition knowledge and to foster positive lifestyle changes of low-income households living on Indian reservations and to American Indian households residing in approved areas near reservations or in Oklahoma.
  • Projects chosen this year for the grants include a recipe toolkit containing menus, shopping lists, and snack ideas featuring more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; summer camp programs for youth to teach healthy cooking techniques; nutrition education sessions held during scheduled food deliveries for participants in remote reservation areas; and community gardens to promote fruit and vegetable consumption. Among the recipients is the Menominee Indian Tribe of Keshena, Wisc., where the launch of LMIC is being held. The Menominee Indian Tribe will use their grant to offer cooking and canning classes to FDPIR eligible participants and assist 30 families in developing home vegetable gardens.

Passage of Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act

  • The passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed by President Obama in December 2010 allows USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children. This will help native communities win the future by having healthier lives. The bill also expanded the afterschool supper program to youth in low-income areas in all 50 states, including reservations. It will improve the food environment at schools participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, including tribal schools, by providing USDA with the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools, including in vending machines, the "a la carte" lunch lines, and school stores. It also enhances universal meal access for eligible children in high poverty communities by eliminating paper applications and using census data to determine school wide income eligibility.

Let's Move! is a comprehensive initiative, launched by the First Lady, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. Combining comprehensive strategies with common sense, Let's Move! and USDA are working to put native families on the path to a healthy future.

FDPIR and the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs are among 15 nutrition assistance programs overseen by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. Many households participate in the FDPIR as an alternative to the Special Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps, because they do not have easy access to SNAP offices or authorized food stores. These programs touch the lives of one in four Americans each year and work together to form a national safety net against hunger.