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Death Tax for Twinkies! Navajo Health Activists Push for Junk Food Tax

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A group of Navajo activists advocating for healthy living is not deterred by the tribal council’s decision to reject their proposed Junk Food Tax Act of 2013.

The Diné Community Advocacy Alliance instead plans to partner with private businesses and introduce their bill as a referendum next election, reported the Navajo Times

The bill aims to increase the tax on “junk food” by 2 percent and eliminate the 5 percent sales tax on fresh fruits and vegetables. The Alliance also wants to ban sales tax on water. Money reaped from the junk food tax would be distributed to chapters with the intent of funding wellness programs.

While delegates largely supported the tax elimination on fresh fruits and vegetables, many criticized the tax on “junk food,” saying it might incite Navajos to purchase groceries in reservation border towns with tax-free food, such as Gallup or Farmington, New Mexico.

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Among other concerns, delegates expressed worries the tax may place more stress on disadvantaged families. But those who use Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards or food stamps will not be affected, because sales tax is excluded from eligible items. The Alliance plans to address the federal issue with EBT cards in the future; the cards promote sales of processed foods like chips and soda by reducing their cost.

Last week’s deliberation over the bill left the council divided over the tax increase on junk food but has opened conversation lines about the potential benefits of making purchases of fresh produce more affordable, and taxing and labeling unhealthy foods as “junk,” thus making it less appealing to consumers for monetary and psychological reasons.