Thursday, February 5, 2015

Energy Drinks and SNAP benefits

American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) have experienced uncontrollable culture change over the last 150 years, which consequently has led to a steady decline in overall health.  Forced removal, displacement, cultural hegemony, rapid acculturation, intentional institutional assimilation policies and unavailability of traditional foods has left complex interconnected problems. 

Many Indian Reservations are rural and depend on non-Indian border towns to purchase their groceries.  For example, many residents of Standing Rock Indian Reservation (North and South Dakota) purchase groceries in McLaughlin, South Dakota.  Standing Rock has United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), (commonly referred to as “commodity program”) and many residents participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as “food stamps.”

After contact, with imposed subsistence changes and demise of the buffalo, AI/AN people fell from being the healthiest people, to being America's most unhealthy population.  The introduction of alcohol was the near final coup de grace.  A generation barely survived the destruction of traditional culture, including language, and spiritual practices.  After 30+ years of federal government Indian self-determination programs, they are still recovering.  Diabetes is at epidemic rates, caused by eating high sugar, high fat, with no fresh fruits or vegetables, low fiber, little protein in the Government Boarding Schools, Border town stores often over-charge shoppers and don’t offer discounts as in large supermarkets.  Do residents want energy drinks to be purchased with their SNAP card?

The very complicated question is how we got to this place in time.  How did we get from food that was harvested, gathered, or butchered to food that is complicated in regulation, ingredients, and full of government subsidies?  How involved do taxpayers want to become in the lives of AI/AN people.  How much government oversight should the government have in the lives of its citizens?

Photo Credit:  Chase Iron Eyes, McLaughlin, South Dakota, December 13, 2014.

The improved overall health of those at the lower socio-economic end of our society can improve immensely by simply and inexpensively changing their eating habits, giving rise to an overall healthier modern-day American society. The AI/AN example of a population that on first contact were free of many diseases when they ate only natural foods, now have become a burden on the healthcare system.

Although SNAP is considered an entitlement, it is an appropriated mandatory and largest program in the USDA. Many struggling families use various forms of public assistance to help them through hard times.  Feeding families is expensive and most families want to feed their children the best food they absolutely can.  Many consider energy drinks ‘junk food,’ but if the energy drinks have a nutrition label, they qualify as SNAP eligible.   Food sovereignty is just as important as it was centuries ago.  Know your food, environment, and the interconnectedness with your health and world around you.

No comments:

Post a Comment