TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation has distributed more than 1,500 food packages to help more than 4,000 elderly and disabled Cherokees have plenty of food as they stay indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cherokee Nation used emergency funds of more than $350,000 approved last year by Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.’s administration and the Council of the Cherokee Nation to purchase the food items, and also cleared the shelves of casino pantries to help solve food insecurities.

“As the COVID-19 virus makes its way to the Cherokee Nation, it is our top priority to ensure our citizens are taken care of, especially the more vulnerable population such as our elders and the disabled. With this emergency food for elders project that we established with our emergency funds, we can ensure food is not a worry for them,” said Chief Hoskin. “We have already taken several steps to keep our community safe and we will continue to work on additional ways to make a difference. As a community, we will get through this challenging time together.”

The Cherokee Nation developed the emergency food for elders program to offset food insecurity issues for the elderly and disabled who are not already be on the tribe’s Food Distribution Program list. The initiative included partnering with more than 30 Cherokee Nation affiliated community organizations and non-profits across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. Each organization is charged with identifying its vulnerable population, with the elderly and disabled first on the list to receive the food packages.

Before food is distributed by community groups, the food packages are assembled, loaded and delivered by a team of Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses employee volunteers who were trained on food handling safety. Efforts have included the packaging and distribution of more than 20,000 pounds of flour, 37,000 pounds of green beans and 47,000 apples.

“One of the best things we can do right now to help people is to address food security. We are trying to take all the action we can within our financial resources and trying to mitigate the circumstance that some may be faced with, like where they will be getting their next meal,” said Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner. “As Cherokees, we are always coming together to help one another, and I can’t say enough to the volunteers and the people who have been on the frontlines and behind the scenes, our community organizations, and our food distribution sites that continue to help people during tough times like this.”

The tribe has distributed non-perishables such as canned and dry food items, as well as perishable foods like fresh fruits to the community organizations throughout the 14 counties. Each food package is designed to feed about three people for three weeks.

The Cherokee Nation has established the Cherokee Elder Food Hotline at 918-316-1670. Callers should be sure to have elders' names, phone numbers and addresses when calling.