The Navajo Nation Just Passed a Junk Food Tax. Too Bad Junk Food is All You Can Buy.

Articles | August 9 2016

By Tristan Ahtone

“They have milk, eggs…this mini deli in the back where they make their own burritos,” customer Suzetta Smith said. “And they have little sandwiches that you can heat up in the microwave. They don’t sell veggies, like the kind that we want,” at the gas station. If they do, she said, they’re usually expired.

Smith lives just down the road from the station in the town of Newcomb, population 339, where she cares for her parents. When she can’t make the 45-minute drive to the grocery store in Shiprock, New Mexico, she says she turns to the local convenience store for food.

“Sandwich stuff like bologna, loaf of bread, processed cheese,” Smith said. “If you want to eat something quickly you just go to the store and heat it up.”

Almost 300,000 people call the Navajo Nation home. The reservation is nearly the size of Panama and straddles Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, but contains only 10 grocery stores and scores of gas stations, convenience stores and trading posts. More than 80 percent of the food sold on the Nation qualifies as “junk food”— products high in salt, fat and sugar—and Navajo citizens struggle with disproportionately high rates of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. (Read more)