Addressing Food Insecurity for Veterans in Northeast Oklahoma

(L to R) Cherokee Nation Deputy S. Joe Crittenden, a U.S. Navy veteran, and Principal Chief Bill John Baker cut and serve cake to veterans.

Guest Commentary

Published May 7, 2018

Cherokee Nation is steadfastly committed to our military veterans, those men and women who have sacrificed so much for our tribe, our country and our collective freedoms. Recently, we established a formal partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma to help ensure these real-life heroes do not suffer from hunger and food instability. Nobody in Oklahoma, especially a military veteran, should go hungry.

This collaboration, which is the first time a tribal government has been involved with this local food bank program, means regular access to healthy and nutritious foods, and that will translate to better and fuller lives. It is a blessing that we are able to help, and it is the least we can do for those who have done so much for us.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

This endeavor will launch a mobile food pantry to the Cherokee Nation Veterans Center quarterly. The first distribution of 10 pallets — about 10,000 pounds of food — will be May 29. The tribe will help identify and distribute tickets to veterans in need, as well as provide volunteers to help run the mobile pantry. Fresh produce, bakery items and nonperishable food items will be made available for about 125 veterans or widows of veterans.

Today, the Cherokee Veterans Center offers a wide array of activities for veterans. It serves as a place to sign up for benefits, play bingo or attend other activities, and now we are adding a food pantry. It is just one more way we can meet the needs of our people.

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. Food insecurity is a very real issue for families in northeast Oklahoma, and almost 20 percent of the households the Food Bank serves has a military veteran who resides there and utilizes the program. Additionally, national studies show veterans are affected more by hunger and food insecurity than the general population. Many struggle to put food on the table because of a myriad of issues, from employability after service to mental health and related trauma or an unwillingness to seek help.

Collaborating with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma means we are increasing and expanding its coverage and furthering its mission. Just like Cherokee Nation, the food bank wants to provide for our veterans so that they have what they need to prosper.

The Cherokee Nation also offers a food distribution program, which some veterans may also qualify for. For more information on the Cherokee Nation Veterans Center and food pantry, call 918-772-4166.

Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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