In 2008, L.A. lawmakers banned the opening of new, stand alone fast-food chains in obesity-stricken South Los Angeles. Unexpectedly, the area has seen a 12 percent jump in obesity since the 2008 ban, from 63 to 75 percent, according to a RAND Corp. think tank.

The Navajo Nation has decided to fight obesity using a different tactic. The Navajo Nation will implement a tax—not a ban—on junk food. This is the first-ever “fat tax” in the U.S.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014, which mandates a 2 percent tax on pastries, chips, soda, desserts, fried foods, sweetened beverages, and other products with “minimal-to-no-nutritional value.” The Navajo Nation previously implemented a 5 percent tax deduction on fruits and vegetables.

The nation’s largest reservation has only ten full-service grocery stores, though it is the size of West Virginia, according to a 2014 report from the Diné Policy Institute. Many residents utilize food stamps at gas stations and mini-marts to buy groceries that are often fried, processed, and loaded with sugar.

Mother Jones reports,

Overall death rates for American Indians and Alaska Natives are nearly 50 percent greater than those of non-Hispanic whites.

Photo via AP.

Photo via AP

The Navajo Nation also has some of the highest rates of diabetes in the country. With over 300,000 tribe members, 25,000 have type-2 diabetes. On top of that, 75,000 members are pre-diabetic.

Although the Navajo Nation is the first to implement a junk-food tax in America, in November, Berkeley, CA residents voted to implement a tax on soda and other sugary beverages, with the hope that it will lower consumption in the area. According to the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, studies show a correlation between added excise taxes and lower consumption rates.

“I’ve been telling the councils, food can either empower us and make us strong, or it can kill us,” says Denisa Livingston, community health advocate for the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance. She tells Mother Jones, “Healthy food is not just our tradition, it’s our identity. This is the start of a return to food sovereignty.”

[via Mother Jones]