VINITA, OK – The Cherokee Nation celebrated the opening of its eighth food distribution center in Vinita, OK. A ribbon cutting was held at the new Vinita Food Distribution Center and Career Services satellite office at 27469 S. 4410 Road.
The 6,000 sq. ft. facility, built with the tribe’s Respond, Recover, Rebuild ARPA funds during COVID-19, will house several offices, a teaching kitchen and a grocery store component that will provide Native American families with healthy foods each month.
“When Cherokee Nation first started its food distribution program with the USDA, they were located in just a few of our areas in the Cherokee Nation reservation and in Vinita families would have to drive long distances or pickup food from a ‘tailgate site’ with limited options,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “This investment is one that we can all be proud of. This new Vinita Food Distribution Center is an essential step in ensuring that Cherokee Nation is meeting the basic healthy food needs for tribal citizens and members of federally recognized tribes.”
The Cherokee Nation started their first food distribution program in 1984. Collinsville Food Distribution was the last one opened in 2014. Other locations include Jay, Nowata, Salina, Sallisaw, Stilwell and Tahlequah. The opening of the new center brings the total number of Cherokee Nation Food Distribution Centers across the reservation to eight.
The food distribution program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and provides eligible members of federally recognized tribes residing in the Cherokee Nation Reservation with nutritious foods including fruits, vegetables, proteins, dairy and traditional foods in a grocery store setting.
“The food distribution program is such a blessing to Cherokee Nation citizens and other tribal citizens who are experiencing food insecurity,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “This new facility can mean everything to a family, and it is so great that we will be able to extend that blessing to tribal citizens living in the Vinita area.”
“Working together with Human Services, we are opening new one-stop shops throughout the 14-county reservation, including in Vinita,” said Diane Kelley, Executive Director of Career Services. “This collaboration has allowed us to bring services to the northern area of the Cherokee Nation and we appreciate the support from our Administration and Council to get this location in full swing.”
The facility was part of the tribe investing $25 million in 2020 from the CARES Act. One of the focuses of the investment was to help tribal citizens experiencing food insecurity.
“The opening of our Vinita Distribution Center means that more tribal families can now have access to fully stocked shelves and wider food selections to put on their dinner tables,” said Deputy Speaker of the Council Victoria Vazquez. “That is how we continue on the path of creating a healthier Cherokee Nation.”
In fiscal year 2022, more than 36,000 Native American households, including more than 68,000 individuals, shopped at the Cherokee Nation food distribution centers. The newest Vinita center has operated curbside services since June 2022, but with the building now open, numbers are expected to increase.
The building will also house a Career Services satellite office in the same building so clients don’t have to travel to Tahlequah. This new Career Services Office will better accommodate clients in Craig County and surrounding areas. Cherokee Nation Career Services includes different types of training, alternative education/GED classes, youth employment, the Coming Home Re-Entry Program, Talking Leaves Job Corps admissions/placement, the Dislocated Workers Program and the Tribal Employment Rights Office, among other services.