Commods, short for commodities—it’s a term used throughout Indian Country for the food available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s USDA Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations FDPIR.
The lists of food available according to the March 2012 USDA Food and Nutrition Service Nutrition Program Fact Sheet includes frozen meat, canned meat, canned soups, pastas, cereal, bakery mix, flour, peanut butter, dehydrated potatoes; and, in some cases, fresh produce is substituted for the canned fruits and vegetables. Of course, there is also the famous “commod cheese,” also known as “insert tribal name gold.”
Yet, throughout the years, many critics of FDPIR point out that the foods available through this program are high in starch and sugar, which can be contributing factors to an increase in diabetes. Therefore, in order to teach about portion management and healthier food preparation, many tribes are taking steps to enhance their food distribution programs with initiatives to increase better nutrition and healthier lifestyles.
The USDA also sees the need to provide positive nutrition education and encourage physical activity habits throughout Indian country. This year, the USDA distributed grant to 17 tribes and tribal organizations in nine states, with stipulations in the grant stating that the projects “incorporate Dietary Guidelines recommendations within the Native American culture [USDA emphasis].
“USDA is committed to working with tribal communities to drive economic growth, create opportunities through business and agriculture, and to improve the health and well-being of native families,” said Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack. “These grants will help tribal communities promote healthy kids and healthy families by making sure they have access to nutritious food, education and the support they need to ensure healthy habits. With that winning combination we can help to reduce and prevent childhood obesity and ensure a stronger future for Indian Country.”
This year’s list of grant recipients went to tribes in California, Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Alaska. The projects of these tribes range from the “Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables” Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations and food preparation classes to community garden and food preservation/canning classes. . . .