May 02, 2019

Cortez Masto, Udall, Smith Introduce Bill to Increase Access to Nutritious Meals for Native Students

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) reintroduced legislation to give Tribes the authority to directly provide Child Nutrition Programs. The Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act of 2019 recognizes that Tribes understand the needs of their communities best, especially when it comes to ensuring children have consistent, healthy, and nutritious meals all year long. U.S. Representatives Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) introduced companion legislation in the House.

“Many communities across Indian Country are in the middle of vast food deserts and rely on federal food programs to combat food insecurity and provide healthy meals to their children and families. It is common sense that tribes should be empowered to directly manage and deliver these important programs. Native American children are already some of the most vulnerable to hunger and nutrition related diseases like obesity and diabetes, so it is crucial that we provide tribes with the resources they need to improve and expand access to vital nutrition services,” said Cortez Masto.

“Tribal schools and Native families still face too many barriers to accessing important hunger and nutrition-related services. With half of all Native children at risk of developing diabetes in their lifetime, it is critical that Tribal governments can directly administer Child Nutrition Programs that help prevent food insecurity and promote healthy diets. The Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act gives Tribes the ability to manage and deliver important food programs for Native students who otherwise may struggle to access consistent or adequate nutrition,” said Udall. “This legislation makes sure that Native students have access to nutritious foods so they can focus on their education, instead of worrying about their next meal.”

“If we’re going to make sure Native American students aren’t going hungry on tribal lands, we need to empower tribal governments,” said Smith. “I helped introduce this legislation so tribal governments can make their own decisions when it comes to combatting child hunger in Indian Country.”


Limited access to affordable and nutritious food in Indian Country puts Native children at a high risk of hunger and nutrition-related diseases like diabetes and obesity. The Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act of 2019 would help reduce this risk by allowing federally recognized Tribes to directly administer programs like the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Several Tribal governments and community organizations have endorsed the Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act of 2019, including the Food and Research Action Center and the National Congress of American Indians.