CN gives 13K-plus meals to elders via COVID-19 response

BY STAFF REPORTS
09/18/2020 09:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
From left to right Cherokee Nation Family Assistance cook foreman Josie Cheater, Family Assistance Assistant Manager Crystal Thomas, Family Assistance nutrition aide Anthony Pritchett, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and Chief of Staff Todd Enlow show ready-made meals being provided to Cherokee elders. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation officials have announced that the tribe has distributed more than 13,000 ready-made meals to keep Cherokee elders fed after many senior nutrition sites temporarily closed to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

The CN partnered with Hunger Free Oklahoma, a nonprofit organization in Tulsa, to bring nutritious restaurant-quality meals to Cherokee elders who typically depend on senior nutrition centers to get their daily meals. 

Funding for the elder meals is part of the CN’s COVID-19 Respond, Recover and Rebuild spending plan announced by Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. in May. The meals are just one portion of the tribe’s largest emergency food distribution in Cherokee history, carried out to help elderly and disabled Cherokees have food security as they stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many of our everyday routines to come to a halt, and this can’t be said more for our elders who rely on our meal services through our senior nutrition program,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “As an alternative, we are providing ready-made meals that can be safely picked up at one of our senior nutrition centers throughout the Cherokee Nation. Putting our elders first is always our top priority at Cherokee Nation, and with our COVID-19 Respond, Recover and Rebuild plan, we are able to do even more to help our elders and ensure they get the nutritious meals they need.” 

Each week, a chef from the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma designs a menu of meals specifically created to meet the nutritional needs of senior citizens. The meals are prepared by the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, flash-frozen and then distributed to CN-affiliated senior nutrition centers throughout the tribe’s 14-county reservation. 

A team of CN employees helps distribute the meals to each senior nutrition site using new refrigerated trucks also purchased with a portion of the tribe’s CARES Act funding.   

The tribe receives 2,800 ready-made meals per week to be distributed to the senior centers. At distribution, each elder receives five meals for the week. Each contains a well-balanced nutritious meal, and can be either reheated in a microwave or in an oven. 

“The meals offered at our senior nutrition centers are a lifeline for our Cherokee elders who are homebound or who are not able to cook anymore. So, when our sites had to close their doors in an effort to keep our elders safe during COVID-19, many lost their weekly resource for lunch or dinner,” said Chief of Staff Todd Enlow. “With the COVID-19 Respond, Recover and Rebuild funding, we are able to make sure our elders continue to safely receive their daily meals. Our sites are set up to with a drive-through style distribution, which is meant to provide them meals in a way that is contactless.” 

Elders who participated in the tribe’s senior nutrition program prior to the COVID-19 pandemic are being contacted by senior nutrition staff to set up a day and time to pick up their meals each week. 

Elders who are currently not participants of the tribe’s senior nutrition program can still sign up to receive meals. Eligible participants must be a CN citizen age 50 or older, and live within the tribe’s reservation boundaries. 

Elders who would like to receive the ready-made meals can call 918-453-5000 extensions 3907, 5337 or 5627, before noon on Fridays to participate in the following week’s distribution. 

Home deliveries are limited at this time. If an elder is unable to pick up their meals, they are encouraged to request a family member or neighbor to pick up the meals for them. If an elder is unable to designate someone to pick up their meals, they can call the numbers provided above and a staff member will locate someone to make the delivery. 

Elder meals can be picked up at: 

· Porum Senior Center at Wheeler Estates, Quapaw Street;

· Marble City Senior Center at Marble City Community Center, 711 N. Main;  

· Belfonte Senior Center at 474894 State Hwy 1010 in Muldrow;

· Kenwood Senior Center at Kenwood Community Building, 1147 Country Road 487 in Salina;

· Evening Shade Senior Center at Evening Shade Community Center, 453929 E. 995 Road in Vian;

· Oaks Senior Center at 324 E. Cherokee; 

· Spavinaw Senior Center at 125 S. Main; 

· Wisdom Keepers at 1286 W. Fourth St. in Tahlequah;

· Greasy Senior Center at Greasy Community Center, 467505 E. 932 Road in Bunch;

· Tsa-La-Gi Senior Center at 406 E. Ruth No. 530 in Sallisaw; 

· Dry Creek Senior Center at Dry Creek Community Center, 30402 S. 584 Road in Bunch;

· Caney/Tailholt Senior Center at 26229 E. 813 Road in Welling; 

· Nowata Senior Center at 1018 Lenape Drive; and 

· Foyil Senior Center at Foyil Community Center, 17278 Fourth St. in Claremore.

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