August 31, 2022

This July, the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) released Child Nutrition Reauthorization: Strengthening Programs in Tribal Communities, a policy brief that outlines recommendations aimed at improving the impact of the federal Child Nutrition Programs in Indian Country through the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) process.

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act authorizes the federal Child Nutrition Programs, which reach millions of children each day and support educational achievement, economic security, nutrition, and health. Although most of the programs are permanently authorized, about every five years, Congress reviews the laws governing these programs through the reauthorization process.

CNR presents a unique opportunity to improve federal policies that have exacerbated food insecurity in Indian Country. This can be done by focusing on supporting access to the Child Nutrition Programs for Native youth and incorporating Tribal sovereignty into efforts to improve program operations.

To accomplish these goals, FRAC and IAC discuss the following policy recommendations in the brief:

  • Expand Tribal 638 authority — self-governance authority throughout CNR programs to allow Tribes to administer the Child Nutrition Programs themselves;
  • Allow all schools located on or near Tribal lands to offer healthy school meals to all students at no charge;
  • Increase the reimbursement rates for schools and Child and Adult Care Food Program operators across Indian Country to offset the higher cost of doing business in and around Tribal communities due to a lack of adequate infrastructure and/or Tribes’ frequently remote, rural locations; and
  • Streamline access to Native-produced and culturally relevant foods in Child Nutrition Programs.

These recommendations would not only alleviate the food insecurity that has impacted Indian Country, but also provide a source of economic stability by supporting local Tribal producers who are best suited to feed their fellow community members.

As Congress considers a Child Nutrition Reauthorization effort this year, including the House Education & Labor Committee-passed Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 8450), we urge them to include provisions that would strengthen the reach of the Child Nutrition Programs in Indian Country and improve Tribal sovereignty.