Food Distribution Department utilizes USDA grant

By Will Chavez
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - The Cherokee Nation Food Distribution Department recently used a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to buy new equipment and make upgrades.

Bud Squirrel, director of the Food Distribution Department, said the $230,000 was used to buy a forklift for the main food warehouse in Tahlequah and two "good used" tractor-trailer box trucks to deliver commodity foods to the department's four outlying stores in Jay, Stilwell, Sallisaw and Salina. A fifth store is located in Tahlequah next to the main warehouse.

Approximately 12,000 people are served monthly by the food stores, which offer canned and fresh fruits and vegetables, canned juices and meats, frozen chicken and beef and a variety of other foods.

The department also uses eight tailgate sites within the Cherokee Nation to get commodity foods to certified clients. At tailgate sites, tribal members receive their food from the back of semi-trailer trucks. These sites are being phased out as more food stores open, and tribal members are encouraged to shop at their local commodity food store rather than use a tailgate site.

Squirrel said the money was also used to improve the freezer and cooler in the Tahlequah store and to purchase a new display cooler for the Jay store.

Squirrel's staff along with Principal Chief Chad Smith thanked members of the tribe's purchasing department for their hard work in making sure the equipment could be purchased.

Though the $230,000 was received late in the fiscal year (Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 for the CN), Rebecca Mitchell, Shelley McClain and Emily Cornsilk went "above and beyond" to waive ordering deadlines and cut procurement time to enable the program to purchase all of their equipment before the end of the fiscal year, Smith said.

The Food Distribution Program served 140,150 individuals in fiscal year 2003 at its stores and tailgate sites. The total amount of food distributed was valued at $5.3 million.

To receive donated foods, a member of a household must have a Certificate Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) card, Social Security cards or birth certificates for each household member, income verification for each employed household member and verification of residence, such as phone or utility bills showing applicant's name and address.

The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, which funds the Cherokee Nation Food Distribution Program, is a program specifically intended to serve tribal populations. Therefore, the primary requirement for program eligibility is that an applicant must meet the definition of a tribal household.

For more information, call (918) 458-4462 or toll free 1-800-865-4462.

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