- DCAA successfully advocated for the first “junk food tax” ever passed in the country.
- The Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014, which taxes unhealthy foods and puts those tax dollars into a community wellness project fund, generated over $4 million by 2017.
- Over 1,000 community wellness projects have been created from the tax revenue generated by the “junk food tax” that DCAA supported.
Changing the Narrative:
When the DCAA first formed in 2012, the conversation about food security and health equity on the Navajo Nation had been predominated by discussions of food deserts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had recently released a mapping tool that for the first time visualized the difficulties people all across the country—and every place in Indian Country—had in accessing food regularly. But to DCAA, that was only part of the story of their community’s relationship with food, and it wasn’t necessarily the story they wanted to tell.
Instead, DCAA looked to their community members, their elders, and traditional food wisdom,focusing not on what they didn’t have, but on the rich resources of their community foodways,lifeways, and actions they could take to protect those vital parts of Diné life and culture. Through discussions with elders, DCAA determined that traditionally, some type of taxation had always been a common practice in their communities, and from those early discussions the work of DCAA to change Navajo Nation tax policy around foods truly began.
Visit and be present to learn more about those challenges and what people or organizations go through, and learn first-hand instead of reading it in reports that may not convey the full story. Specifically, the values that are driving communities are often missed by funders who don’t get proximate with community work to see their work in context. There is such a diversity in values across regions and communities, it’s really important to become familiar with the story of partners’ work. –Denisa Livingston
Changing tax policy for an entire nation was challenging,especially when selling and marketing certain foods on the “unhealthy” list is a multi-billion dollar business for external companies. DCAA has maintained an impactful relationship with the Tribal government. They strive to inform, educate, and mobilize community members to advocate for change in a peaceful way that benefits the whole community. This proved to be an effective way forward, and in 2014, two years after forming, DCAA saw the Navajo Nation pass the Healthy Diné Nation Act, officially ending taxes on healthy foods and imposing an 8% sales tax on foods with minimal nutritional value. Since the law passed, the tax dollars collected from sales taxes have supported the creation of over 1,000 community wellness projects.