Food bank coming to CN Veterans Center
Executive Director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma Eileen Bradshaw, left, and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker sign an agreement to start a mobile pantry at the tribe's Veterans Center. GRANT D. CRAWFORD/TAHLEQUAH DAILY PRESS
TAHLEQUAH – Under a new agreement signed May 3 between the Cherokee Nation and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, a new mobile pantry will be at the tribe’s Veterans Center.
It is the Food Bank’s first tribal partnership, as the two entities hope to reach more hungry people that could use assistance. In particular, the program will serve veterans and widows of veterans.
“The Cherokee Nation continues to look for ways to honor and serve our veteran warriors and this partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is another avenue to reach those in need,” CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Our Cherokee Veterans Center offers activities for veterans, a place to sign up for benefits and now adding a food pantry in another step in serving them.”
The plan involves the Food Bank bringing about 10 pallets of food – approximately 10,000 pounds – to the Veterans Center on a quarterly basis, said Jim Lyall, veterans outreach coordinator for the Food Bank.
Items will include an array of fresh produce, canned goods, non-perishable food items and baked goods. Through the Food Bank’s various programs to reach rural communities, 18 percent of household served include a military veteran. For the Food Bank, it’s a chance to help vets “thrive,” not just survive.
“We are so excited about this new partnership with the Cherokee Nation,” said Eileen Bradshaw, executive director for the Food Bank. “The issue of food insecurity is important to both of us and we all want to make sure our veterans have what they need to thrive.”
Many veterans live on limited funds and work within a budget. Allan Johnson, CN citizen and U.S. Army veteran, said he is tired of paying rent on his home, and the partnership could help bring an end to that.
“I’m on a fixed income with disability,” said Johnson. “I would like to get in a home of my own, but that will make it much easier on me. Otherwise it would still be beneficial, but it might become imperative, if I want to live in my own home.”
Johnson said providing veterans with food assistance could help those who have served overseas re-acclimate to life at home.
The CN has already identified 125 families to receive food from the pantry. Once a recipient chooses to drop from the program or no longer participates, the tribe will identify other veterans to be included. But if all goes well, Barbara Foreman, director of the Veteran Affairs Office at the Veterans Center, said a lot more families could benefit from the partnership.
“In the future, the plan is not to just have it here,” said Foreman. “If this is successful, we can do this for our veterans in the 14 counties and other spots. So this is our beginning pilot and if it becomes successful, then we will be able to branch out to the others.”