Applying Racial Equity to U.S. Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs - Flipbook - Page 22
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Hamiel Irizarry
(the Nutrition Assistance Program). Participation rates were cut in half
when NAP became the only option for residents of Puerto Rico, because
NAP is a block grant, meaning that it had a fixed amount of funding
regardless of recipient needs. It was no longer an entitlement program
that expanded when more people became eligible, so many fewer
people qualified.79 Although presumably 60 percent of residents were
still struggling to put food on the table, only 30 percent of households
received assistance under NAP.80
Similarly, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern
Mariana Islands also do not administer SNAP.81 Nearly half of people
in Puerto Rico,82 nearly 70 percent of people in the Commonwealth
of the Northern Mariana Islands,83 and nearly 80 percent of people in
American Samoa84 live below the federal poverty line. The majority of
residents are people of color. They are at far higher risk of hunger than
their fellow U.S. citizens who live in states, the District of Columbia, or
even the two other U.S. territories (Guam and the Virgin Islands).
For more on the impact of
food insecurity in Puerto Rico
post-hurricanes, see Appendix 23.
• Congress should extend the SNAP program to all U.S.
territories. The three territories discussed above have very high poverty rates, and a block grant structure cuts many food
insecure people off from nutrition assistance.
• Congress should identify changes to SNAP that states are permitted to make, but that result in fewer people being
eligible than under federal law, and prohibit states from making such changes. These changes include, but are not
limited to, adopting asset limits criteria, making eligibility contingent on child
support payments, declaring people with certain criminal records ineligible, and
mandating additional or stricter work requirements than under federal law.
To see a detailed chart of
racially inequitable state
• Congress should increase funding for the Food Distribution Program on Indian
laws, please see Appendix 8.
Reservations (FDPIR). This would both help food insecure people and enable
USDA to better support the concept of self-determination, or recognizing the capacity
of Indigenous communities and equitably engaging with them to plan and implement
programs, within FDPIR85 (see page 73 for definition of equitable engagement).
“When Indian Country lost its
ability to feed itself, through
whatever means, we lost
that part of ourselves that
supports our ability to thrive.
It is only by regaining our
foods will we be able to
restore our health…”
—Janie Hipp, Director, Indigenous
Food & Agriculture Initiative, University
of Arkansas School of Law. Member of
Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Recipients interviewed for this paper said that the benefit amount is
insufficient; the value of the food package is $72, compared to an average $125
in SNAP benefits.86 The Institute recommends increasing the FDPIR benefit to
that of SNAP.
Recipients reported experiences that differed from the information in program
literature. On paper, the program offers four traditional foods, but interviewees
expressed the need for foods that are specific to certain regions and also made
the point that recipients and direct service providers should be more involved in
decisions about traditional foods. The Institute recommends that USDA continue
working with its current group of tribal representatives and also include additional
recipients and nonprofit staff from all regions.
This expanded group could also help develop other strategies to strengthen how
the principle of self-determination is applied in practice.87 One suggestion made in
interviews was that USDA could enable and equip Indigenous farmers to grow and
distribute traditional foods. This would require USDA to change its contracting
practices to support farming and distribution. The 2018 farm bill allocated $5 million for a demonstration project that
allows tribes to use “638” tribal self-determination contracts to purchase FDPIR food.88 Once this pilot is completed, the
data should be evaluated for information on the funding needed to enable other tribes to follow suit. Also, simply adding
the phrase “regionally grown” to the wording of FDPIR’s traditional foods provision would mean more support for
Indigenous farmers in producing traditional foods.
APPLYING RACIAL EQUITY TO U.S. FEDERAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS: SNAP, WIC AND CHILD NUTRITION