Imagine a family, opening a box to find nutritious food grown and raised by Tribal producers in their community and close by. The FDPIR (Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations) 638 Self-Determination Demonstration Project may begin to help make this dream a reality for Tribes already involved in the FDPIR program.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is soliciting proposals from eligible Tribal Organizations to participate in a demonstration project to purchase agricultural commodities for the FDPIR program. This demonstration project is authorized under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. Participation in this demonstration project is available to Tribal Organizations that administer FDPIR. Tribal organizations will be selected on a competitive basis and funding will be awarded through a self-determination contract.
FDPIR 638 is an important acknowledgement of Tribal sovereignty that opens the door to food purchasing decisions that allow for more traditional, Tribally grown, local and regionally produced foods. Michael Ladd works for the USDA FNS as the Western Regional Tribal Affairs Specialist. He reached out to Keir Johnson-Reyes – IAC National Technical Assistance Lead, to ensure IAC was equipped with all the resources needed to help share materials and information on FDPIR 638.
“The inroads made in the 2018 Farm Bill enable both Tribal producers and Tribal communities as a whole, to be more integrated into the processes and to gain numerous benefits of keeping more of the overall food sourcing within their locality,” reiterated Johnson-Reyes. “This supports the growing of resilient Indian Country food businesses and the overall health and cultural perpetuation of Tribal populations.”
“The interest for this program needs to come from the Tribe that is currently administering FDPIR,” Ladd pointed out. “We just want to make sure we have a robust set of applications coming in.”
“FDPIR staff are working hard to keep things open during these unprecedented times and they may not be as connected with Tribal vendors. That is where I see IAC and its network being a critical stakeholder and partner here,” Ladd added.
There were six Tribal outreach sessions already held about the pilot project, Ladd noted and information about this demonstration project has been sent out to Tribal leaders and FDPIR directors. The next step is working together he said, “The whole purpose and idea behind this program is getting Tribes to become more involved with the purchasing of the food that goes into the food package for FDPIR.”
While initial reports state there is $3 million available in this project, Ladd has also heard that number has risen to roughly $6 million. Eligibility and criteria states that each Tribal Organization must provide a budget proposal and narrative with all associated costs that will be carried out under the contract. The individual budget proposal, including all contract support costs (CSC), may not exceed $1.5 million.
“Michael is correct,” stated Erin Parker, Director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (IFAI) that has been following this initiative closely. “Congress appropriated an additional $3 million in the most recent appropriations bill in December of 2020, bringing the total currently appropriated to exactly $6 million.”
“This project represents an important, historic acknowledgment of Tribal sovereignty, applying 638 self-determination contracting to the USDA for the very first time,” Parker went on. “Our IFAI team has been tracking this since it was first proposed legislatively and ultimately passed into law in the 2018 Farm Bill. We know this will bring opportunities for Tribes to provide more traditional and culturally appropriate foods directly to FDPIR participants, while also supporting economic development and new market opportunities for Native food producers.”
“We are looking at this as an opportunity to launch an intertribal cooperative to source products and open up more opportunities,” said Dan Cornelius – Technical Assistance Specialist for the Midwest/Great Lakes Region, who has been following this program since its inception.
“The only applicants are the Tribes themselves. They apply. In their applications they need to identify which vendors will be providing and the source of food. The vendors do not need to be certified, but the application needs to show the products are commercially available. This is one step towards beginning to look at cooperatives and other support umbrellas so that we can really move forward in these types of opportunities,” Cornelius noted.
The long-term hopes IAC has for Indian Country is to continue to come together and work together to ensure more Tribal people have the chance to partake in Native foods grown by Native people.
“It’s a start,” said Dan Cornelius. “And it’s something to get excited about, if we can figure out more ways to work together and make things happen.”
Tribal Organizations must send completed proposals by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on March 15, 2021 to FDPIR-RC@usda.gov with the subject line: “FDPIR Demonstration Project.” Please refer to the new request for proposals that was published recently that outlines complete information about this program and application requirements: CLICK HERE
IFAI 638 FDPIR Webinar and Policy Resources: CLICK HERE
Contact: Michael Ladd
Check out the IFAI infographic breaking the application process: CLICK HERE