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Legislation Aims to Increase Food Access for Native Children

Native American tribes would be able to administer free federal breakfast, lunch, and summer meal programs under a new piece of legislation introduced Tuesday in Congress.

According to The New Mexican, The Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act of 2015 would give $2 million to tribes to upgrade their computer systems and would give tribes the ability to administer the National School Lunch Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and the School Breakfast Program. Currently, tribes can only access those food programs by going through various state agencies.

"Native American children are some of the most vulnerable to hunger and obesity—two problems that school meal programs are proven to help combat," said U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., one of the sponsors of the bill, in a statement. "But tribal schools and Native American families often face unnecessary hurdles to access child nutrition programs."

A 2012 report found that American Indian and Alaska Native children are more likely than their non-Native peers to experience food insecurity. Many reservations are in rural areas without many large grocery stores and residents may lack access to transportation. Nearly 25 percent of American Indians live below the poverty line, which means residents may be unable to afford healthy food.

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