TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation is partnering with area Farmer’s Markets to help new mothers and families have better access to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner announced a new program Friday at the Tahlequah Farmers Market that will provide WIC participants with monetary vouchers redeemable at Farmers Markets across the Cherokee Nation Reservation.
The Cherokee Nation recently received a $244,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to offer the innovative program.
Additionally, the tribe announced the first ever economic support program for WIC participants, who are Cherokee Nation citizens.
“As a tribe, we cherish our Cherokee families and supporting the health and wellness of our families through programs like WIC has always been a priority. Thanks to the work of our Cherokee Nation Public Health and our partnerships with USDA, we are able to expand and look toward new opportunities,” Chief Hoskin said. “Today as we gather together surrounded by families who are directly impacted by WIC programs, we are proud to announce $430 worth of monthly financial support for women, infants and children who are on our program.”
The vouchers will give WIC participants an additional $30 for Farmers Markets in Cherokee Nation communities. The vouchers will be available in June and for more information or to apply, contact Cherokee Nation Public Health at 918-453-5589 or WIC@cherokee.org to get an application.
“WIC is a program that’s constantly working to achieve the Cherokee Nation goals for healthy, happy families by improving the nutritional status of tribal citizens,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “And even better, it’s a program that is for all types of families. Like so many families across the Cherokee Nation, it is no question that our WIC participants are feeling the strains of the economy as we all work to recover and rebuild after the pandemic. These programs are a testament to what we can accomplish together when we put Cherokee families first.”
The Cherokee Nation’s federally funded health and nutrition program, Women, Infants and Children, has previously partnered with grocery stores throughout the tribe’s 14-county reservation to help provide healthy and nutritious foods to pregnant or nursing women, infants, and children less than five years of age.
WIC helps families by providing an Electronic Benefits Transfer card, also referred to as an eWIC card, for buying healthy foods from WIC-authorized grocery stores.
The Cherokee Nation is also set to soon roll out its First Steps to Hope program, a pilot project funded by the tribe’s ARPA dollars as a result of the Upward Mobility Task Force. The project is dedicated to reducing adverse effects of poverty in Cherokee children and will invest in eligible Cherokee Nation citizens who are pregnant as well as participants in the WIC program.
Those eligible for the First Steps to Hope program will receive a monthly $400 economic support payment for up to 18 months or until the child turns one year of age. The funds are intended to reduce the negative outcomes associated with pregnant women living in poverty while simultaneously improving outcomes in cognitive development, mental health, well-child visits, continuing education or training, and financial stability for both the mother and child.
The unrestricted economic support payment will help provide food, housing security and transportation as the participants make strides toward self-sufficiency, including financial stability, job retention or career training.
Eligible participants will be referred to the First Steps to Hope program through the WIC program. A brief application and evaluation survey will be required of all participants.
The effective date of the First Steps to Hope program will be June 1, 2023, with enrollment ending on Dec. 31, 2024.
WIC also provides nutrition education, breastfeeding support and referrals for health care and other community services.
WIC clinics are located throughout the Cherokee Nation Reservation and provide services to thousands of clients.
To participate in the program, applicants must live in the Cherokee Nation WIC service area; have a nutritional need; have a child age 5 or younger, be pregnant or recently pregnant; and have a family income less than the WIC guidelines.
Eligible families are encouraged to apply for the WIC program by calling 1-800-256-0671, ext. 5589, to set up an appointment. Walk-ins are also welcome.
For more information about the WIC program, visit https://health.cherokee.org/public-health/women-infants-children/ or https://www.cherokeepublichealth.org/tiles/index/display?alias=WIC.