Nevada Indian Summit promotes food programs available to tribal communities |

Nevada Indian Summit promotes food programs available to tribal communities

Cassandra Walker | First Nation's Focus
By means of food distribution, WIC and SNAP, tribal community members have access to a range of nutrition and family education and resources.
Photo: Cassandra Walker
Applying for SNAP Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was established in 1964 and is formerly known as the Food Stamp system, operating to increase food security and reduce hunger. Tribal families can apply for the program and if they meet the income eligibility guidelines they can now use Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to purchase un-taxed food from grocery stores and even farmer’s markets from five direct farmers. SNAP longstanding vendor requirements now include breads, dairy, fruits and vegetables including canned and frozen produce. Below is information about SNAP; visit to learn more:
  • One in seven Americans receives SNAP benefits
  • 40% of SNAP recipients live in households with earnings
  • Half of participants are children
  • About 16% of households include an elderly family member
  • About 20% of households include a disabled member
  • It is estimated that every $1 in SNAP benefits generates up to $1.80 in economic activity
Learn more • For more information on Yerington Commodity Foods, visit: • For more information on WIC, visit: • For more information on SNAP, visit:

SPARKS, Nev. — On April 19, advocates working to provide an accommodating food system to regional tribes presented helpful information on food distribution and family programming during the Nevada Indian Summit at the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks.

The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension presented the summit from April 17-19 in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with a goal of helping tribal communities in Nevada with future land-and-water-use planning, economic development and making a profit.

Laurie Thom, chairwoman of the Yerington Paiute Tribe, spoke to the efforts of the Yerington Commodity Foods distribution program, which accommodates 16 tribal communities throughout northern Nevada and California.

“The Yerington Paiute Tribe Commodity Food Program ensures income-eligible tribal families receive healthy food to sustain their families through food shortages,” she explained.

The commodity food distribution program currently transports foods to tribal families in Yerington, Fallon, Bridgeport, Yomba, Benton, Carson City, Woodfords, Reno, Lovelock, Schurz, Bishop, Big Pine, Independence and Lone Pine.

Each month, drivers cover 2,517 miles to provide families with much needed household food staples.

“Getting that food there is most important,” Thom said, adding that the staff is accommodating and helpful, willing to do whatever it takes to ensure deliveries are made.

In an effort to make positive changes to current food distribution protocol, Thom said regional tribes were asked to provide feedback; in general, members prefer to see more ingredients such as bison meat, nuts and grains, which have traditionally been in native food systems.

Thom and her team also plan to promote nutrition education for the Native population and increase outreach by 25% in the coming months and years; offer more fresh fruits and vegetables; and create YouTube videos offering cooking tips with traditional foods, fresh herbs and spices.

Offering help for tribal mothers

Also on April 19, Brittany Tybo, Women Infant and Children (WIC) director from the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, led a presentation on the resources the council provides to new mothers and families, both pre-and-post natal.

Those receiving commodity food distribution benefits are ineligible for WIC and families can work with specialists to determine the best route for their family.

The mission of WIC is to assure healthy pregnancies, healthy birth outcomes and healthy growth and development for women, infants and children up to age five. WIC provides nutritious foods, which are selected for the families in need — women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are given additional calories to sustain their babies.

“We provide special care for high-risk participants concerning their medical needs (and) weight concerns, and provide no-cost dietitian support,” Tybo said. “We also offer breastfeeding support and promotion. It’s not as easy as it looks, and moms need support.

“Moms can come into the office at any time, get help to get a baby to latch-on (and) get a mentor who has already had children to have someone to call or text 24/7.”

Without the WIC program, new moms could expect to spend upwards of $120 an hour for such assistance, Tybo estimates.

WIC participants qualify for a year at a time and receive food distributions such as milk, cheese, eggs, peanut butter, fruits and vegetables that are fresh and canned, juice, and substitutes for dietary restrictions.

The goal is to make the WIC program as accessible to tribal families as possible; as such, the team drives to reservations, offering food and resources.

The impact of WIC

According to information shared by ITCN, the impact of WIC currently shows that for every $1 spent in WIC, Medicare saves $3.

In the future, WIC would like to see the age limit raised for children from age five to six, so they can be covered with groceries until school lunches can take over — something Tybo says her staff will wait to address under different legislation to keep from losing the opportunity, indefinitely.

WIC currently serves 1,400 participants, including pregnant moms, breastfeeding moms, postpartum moms and children.

“They don’t care what we know until they know that we care,” Tybo said regarding tribal members in need of assistance. “We want to get them the information and resources they need from someone they trust so we do a lot of research out in the community, offer infant loss support group referrals, and do sensitivity training with our staff as they see a lot of hard situations.”

All of these food and nutrition education resources are offered in the spirit of empowering families, moms, dads, foster parents, grandparents and people taking care of babies to raise healthy children.

Cassandra Walker is a special assignments reporter for Sierra Nevada Media Group and a regular contributor to First Nation’s Focus. She can be reached at


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