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Navajo Nation To Tax Junk Food

Jeff Adair via Flickr

Residents of the Navajo Nation will now be paying more for junk food. Last week Navajo President Ben Shelly signed the Healthy Dine' Nation Act into law, adding a tax on unhealthy food sold anywhere on Navajo land. Deswood Tome is Special Advisor to President Shelly. He spoke to KUNM about the law's implications. 

"The law imposes a tax on junk food as a deterrent, so when people go to the store they'll make a conscious decision to buy nutritious food," Tome said.

The law will take effect on January 1, 2015, and apply to all businesses in the Navajo Nation where food is sold. Tome said improving public health on the reservation has been a major policy goal for President Shelly, and this law is a step towards that goal. 

"In ten years we'll have a Navajo people that are not only healthier but that are living healthier lives," Tome said, adding that the Navajo government hopes the law will lower diabetes rates among its constituents. 

President Shelly had vetoed a previous iteration of the same bill over wording technicalities. The tax revenues generated from the new junk food tax will go towards community wellness initiatives, including farmers markets and exercise equipment for residents. 

Ed Williams came to KUNM in 2014 by way of Carbondale, Colorado, where he worked as a public radio reporter covering environmental issues. Originally from Austin, Texas, Ed has reported on environmental, social justice, immigration and Native American issues in the U.S. and Latin America for the Austin American-Statesman, Z Magazine, NPR’s Latino USA and others. In his spare time, look for Ed riding his mountain bike in the Sandias or sparring on the jiu-jitsu mat.
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