Food Assistance Programs:

Recipient and Expert Views on Food Assistance at Four Indian Reservations

RCED-90-152: Published: Jun 18, 1990. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed food assistance programs on four Indian reservations, focusing on: (1) households that participated in the programs; (2) the programs' effects on hunger and the health of Indians on the four reservations; and (3) the availability of nutrition education.

GAO found that: (1) the Food Stamp Program and the Food Distribution on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) Program are the two largest programs serving Indians living on reservations; (2) the Food Stamp Program's administrative requirements contributed to interruptions, losses, and variances in benefits; and (3) the program allotment levels were too low to fund an adequate low-cost diet. GAO also found that: (1) FDPIR recipients at three reservations did not qualify under stringent food stamp eligibility criteria; (2) the Food Stamp Program's lengthy and complex application process and excessive verification requirements discouraged households from participating; (3) benefits were inequitably distributed among reservation households and often did not meet the needs of households with older children; and (4) expanded education services, tailored to reservation Indians, were needed on all four reservations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 1991, FNS modified the FDPIR commodity package to increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables and reduce the levels of fats and oils in the package.

    Recommendation: To enhance the overall effectiveness of the Food Stamp Program and FDPIR in meeting the nutritional needs and diet-related health concerns of households located on the four Indian reservations, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to include as part of its program evaluations a review of the quality of FDPIR commodities, including reductions in the fat and salt content, and determine whether improvements are needed to ensure the edibility of the commodities and their appropriateness for consumption, especially by those persons with special diet-related health problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FNS contacted the western state agencies and asked them to review the availability situation. The state agencies reported that there is no problem in availability of commodities, therefore, no further action is required.

    Recommendation: To enhance the overall effectiveness of the Food Stamp Program and FDPIR in meeting the nutritional needs and diet-related health concerns of households located on the four Indian reservations, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to monitor on a continuing basis the availability of all FDPIR commodities and, where variety is consistently limited, both: (1) determine the nutritional implications for recipients and the costs of improving commodity availability; and (2) take corrective action, as appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress passed legislation in the 1990 farm bill that prohibits staggered issuance on reservations.

    Recommendation: To enhance the overall effectiveness of the Food Stamp Program and FDPIR in meeting the nutritional needs and diet-related health concerns of households located on the four Indian reservations, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to explore with state officials in North and South Dakota whether state food stamp issuance practices result in increased area food prices and take corrective action, as appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FNS believes that it is already making extensive efforts to address this issue and will continue with similar actions in the future.

    Recommendation: To enhance the overall effectiveness of the Food Stamp Program and FDPIR in meeting the nutritional needs and diet-related health concerns of households located on the four Indian reservations, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), to emphasize to the respective states the importance of promoting effective informational activities, particularly outreach services, to reduce misunderstandings about program eligibility.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress assigned the role of providing nutrition education to participants in both programs to the Cooperative Extension Service in the 1990 farm bill.

    Recommendation: To enhance the overall effectiveness of the Food Stamp Program and FDPIR in meeting the nutritional needs and diet-related health concerns of households located on the four Indian reservations, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to emphasize the importance of nutrition education on Indian reservations and work with tribal and program officials to ensure that adequate education services are provided to recipients who participate in the Food Stamp Program and FDPIR.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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