I was recently looking at the USDA Nutrient Database and I noticed that they categorized 'American Indian/Alaska Native' as a separate food group. For example, what is the difference between 35137 - Cornmeal, yellow (Navajo) and 20020 - Cornmeal, whole-grain, yellow?

I am by no means arguing against this distinction, I am just curious as to why it exists.

  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is determined by a bureaucracy, and is therefore apolitical. Jan 28, 2016 at 22:34
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    Unfortunately, not that I am aware of, but I know the answer. The answer is that they are genetically two different kinds of corn. Navajo corn is not corn that is raised on Navajo reservations, but is the name of a type of corn. Given that, if there is a Biology or Botany SE, you can probably get a better answer there about the differences. Jan 28, 2016 at 22:42
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    Given the USDA is part of the government, I'd say this is certainly a politcs-related question, even if one may not call it political (though it should be noted that the USDA recommendations are heavily politicized given the various ag industry lobbies)
    – user1530
    Jan 29, 2016 at 6:04
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    That said, I believe Pompitous's deleted answer is correct (or close to correct) in that it's simply a type of corn and isn't marking anything as a separate good group (both are still grains). So in that sense, the question has a faulty premise.
    – user1530
    Jan 29, 2016 at 6:06
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    Bureaucratic decisions are typically made by political officials in charge of the bureaucratic agency. The career buereaucrat's job is to carry out the policy of the elected or politically appointed official. Hence the policy is political, even if the issue in question isn't a hot topic issue.
    – hszmv
    May 23, 2023 at 12:39

1 Answer 1


Q: Why does the USDA specify 'American Indian/Alaska Native' foods as a separate food group?

On November 6, 2000, President Clinton signed Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments, "to establish regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have tribal implications".

Food sovereignty began in 1996 as an international movement. That movement and the executive order meant that the USDA had to consider its policies "with tribal implications". Beginning in April 2004, the USDA began adding, to its Standard Reference, the nutrient content of "American Indian/Alaskan Native Foods" as a distinct category. Ultimately, 165 foods were added.

Additionally, the USDA improved its support for producers of such foods.

USDA Resource Guide For American Indians & Alaska Natives, December 2016

4.1 Agriculture, Food Sovereignty and Traditional Foods

As stewards of the land, Native producers are in a unique position to speak on local agricultural traditions and priorities. In this section, we provide you with an array of programs that support agricultural producers, the ability of each tribal nation and its citizens to feed its people, and the recognition that Native traditional foods are important to the health and well-being of Native people.

Q: For example, what is the difference between 35137 - Cornmeal, yellow (Navajo) and 20020 - Cornmeal, whole-grain, yellow?

Nutrient content — as far as the USDA is concerned — nothing more, nothing less.

  • TL;DR: it's virtue signaling May 23, 2023 at 15:42
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    Whole Grain and Navajo appear to be quite different. So listing them separately would seem logical.
    – Jontia
    May 23, 2023 at 21:17
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    I suspect that part of it is to keep track statistically of this portion of the economy since the USDA keeps ag statistics.
    – ohwilleke
    May 23, 2023 at 22:15

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