Navajo Nation employs “junk food” tax
Effective this April, the largest reservation, the Navajo Nation, is imposing the first junk-food tax in the US, a 2% sales tax, on top of the preexisting 5% sales tax, on food with little or no nutrition value. This includes pastries, chips, sodas, desserts, fried foods, sweetened drinks and other processed or refined foods, according to a report from Mother Jones.
The Navajo Nation is a 27,000-square-mile territory on the border of the south-western US states, with an unemployment rate of 42%, and nearly a third of the population diabetic or pre-diabetic Indian Health Service reported. The Navajo Nation area has reportedly been described as a “food desert,” meaning more processed foods are available than fresh fruits and vegetables.
The tax, called the Healthy Diné Nation Act, was signed into law by Navajo President Ben Shelly this past November and is estimated to generate $1 million a year in tax revenue to fund projects like greenhouses, traditional cooking classes, community gardens and farmers’ markets, among other healthy-living initiatives.
Last spring, Navajo Nation dropped the standard 5% sales tax on fruits and vegetables.