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Navajo Nation Council Approves Junk Food Tax


Junk food sold within the Navajo Nation could soon be subject to a 2 percent tax, part of an overall effort to promote healthier living among Navajo people.

The Navajo Nation Council officially passed the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2013 on Jan. 31 with a 12-7 vote.

The new law imposes a 2 percent tax on junk food sold on Navajo land, which includes things such as sweetened drinks, pre-packaged and non-prepackaged snacks low in essential nutrients and foods high in salt, fat and sugar. It will be added onto the Navajo Nation’s 5 percent sales tax. Revenue from the tax will be deposited into a special fund that will help develop projects such as wellness centers, community parks, basketball courts, running trails, community gardens and health education classes.

The new tax is part of a wider effort to address soaring obesity and Type 2 Diabetes rates in Native communities. “Each one of us here has a relative that’s diabetic and we face that fact every single day,” said Council Del. Danny Simpson, who sponsored the legislation.

Voices for Healthy Kids Executive Director Jill Birnbaum called the act “a big step forward.”

“We know that making the switch from unhealthy foods to healthy food can cut calories kids don’t need,” she said. “The Navajo Nation is demonstrating how communities can help make healthy foods more appealing and affordable than unhealthy ones. Research shows consumption of many types of foods are impacted by prices and we look forward to seeing how these new junk food taxes change the consumption of healthy and unhealthy foods.”

President Ben Shelly will have 10 calendar days to consider the bill once it is sent to his office. Council members also passed legislation that eliminates a 5 percent sales tax on fresh fruits and vegetables.