Subsistence, USDA partnership provides fresh produce to Native American tribes

By Alexandria Brimage-Gray Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support

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For more than 20 years, the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Subsistence supply chain has provided fresh fruits and vegetables across the country to Indian Tribal Organizations participating in the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services, Food Distribution division, Subsistence ensures that participating ITOs receive weekly deliveries from prime vendors, Patricia Scott, Subsistence Garrison Feeding division chief, said.

According to Blair Tucker-Gruchala, USDA program analyst, many households participate in FDPIR as an alternative to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, because they do not have easy access to SNAP offices or authorized food stores.

 “FPDIR provides income-eligible households a monthly food package with a variety of nutritious foods including fruits, vegetables, proteins, legumes, grains, dairy, soups and traditional foods such as bison, blue cornmeal, wild rice, catfish, and salmon,” she said. “In these locations, [program participants] can select fresh produce in place of canned fruits and vegetables.”

Since the program’s inception in 1996, there has been significant growth over the years.

"The initial pilot program consisted of two ITOS," Tucker-Gruchala said. "Today, there are more than 100 ITOs and three state agencies administering the program providing assistance to 276 tribes across the country.

This growth has had a positive effect on Subsistence’s sales.

 “We supported more than 130 tribes last [fiscal] year with sales reaching $9.8 million,” Scott said.

Joseph Hauser, Subsistence Produce and Market Fresh division chief, said his contracting team has a unique role in supporting the partnership.

“In addition to supporting the warfighter and the schools with fresh produce, my division also supports many tribes under the FPDIR, making us unique in Subsistence contracting,” Hauser said.  “We appreciate being able to be of service to the tribes and provide them the contracts to supply their food distribution needs. We look forward to growing the program in future.”