11/4/2008 12:54:00 PM Navajo Food Distribution Program gets USDA Secretary's Honor Award
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Food Distribution Program senior budget analyst Thomas Yellowhair is among a national funding workgroup to receive a top award from U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"This award recognizes the FDPIR Work Group for leading development of an objective method of allocating federal administrative funding for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and improve levels of service among participating Tribes," wrote Robert Salazar, Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service with USDA in his letter today to Mr. Yellowhair, a recipient of USDA Secretary's Honor Award.
"I'm happy to have served on a national funding workgroup on behalf of the Navajo Nation and am truly honored to receive a high honor award and recognition bestowed on us by the USDA," said Yellowhair about the award. "The workgroup's recommendation has resulted in overall increased funding for the FNS. In fiscal year 2008, the U.S. Congress appropriated additional $7.5 million to the national FDPIR," he said.
In Fiscal Year 2005, the USDA's Food and Nutrition Services formed a workgroup comprised of FNS staff and program directors from Indian Tribes that administer the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). Yellowhair represented the Navajo Food Distribution Program to the workgroup.
The FDPIR Funding Workgroup was charged to develop a new methodology for distribution of FDPIR administrative funds. The workgroup embarked on its assignment to assure that the methodology that they develop and recommend to the Department will be equitable, objective and easy to understand across Indian Country. The workgroup's recommendation has resulted in overall increased funding for the FNS. In fiscal year 2008, the U.S. Congress appropriated additional $7.5 million to the national FDPIR," he said.
"Mr. Yellowhair and the FDPIR Funding Workgroup worked diligently over two years providing input, working through some complex issues and advocating for increased and equitable distribution of FDPIR administrative funds," said Navajo Division of Health Executive Director Anslem Roanhorse Jr. "Navajo Division of Health takes advantage of any opportunity to communicate tribal perspective to the Federal or State government when it comes to budget or policies that will impact tribal programs. In this situation, the Division of Health participated in a tribal consultation meeting and submitted tribal comments to USDA," he said.
The FDPIR provides commodity foods to low-income households living on Indian reservations, and to American Indian households residing in approved areas near reservation. Many households participate in the FDPIR as an alternative to the Food Stamp Program. The Navajo Food Distribution Program store and distribute commodity foods, determine applicant eligibility, and provide nutrition education to recipients within and near the Navajo reservation. Commodity food package has been expanded recently to include fresh produce such as potatoes, onions, cucumber, zucchini, bell pepper and celery. Tuba City FDP is the only site on Navajo Nation that offer frozen meats and fresh fruits such as pears, peaches, apples and oranges.
The Navajo FDP operates with about $3.0 million from the USDA and the Navajo Nation provides 25 percent matching funds. Additionally, the past several years, New Mexico State Legislature appropriated funding to the Navajo FDP for facility renovation and equipment. The program manages seven food distribution outlets, maintains one central food-receiving warehouse with heavy equipment, and operates a heavy equipment fleet maintenance department. Of the seven food distribution warehouses, four are located in Arizona and three are in New Mexico to serve an average of 10,300 monthly participants. Navajo FDP expends 30 percent of its total budget on monthly tailgate delivery services.
The award ceremony was held at the USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 22.