The announcement coincides with National Farmers Market Week, Aug. 2-8.
Through the partnership, food boxes will be distributed to Chickasaw citizens and those within surrounding communities at no charge.
Eight additional counties in the Chickasaw Nation have been added to the schedule. The counties and dates include:
• Jefferson County, serving the Waurika and Terral area, Aug. 6.
• Stephens County, serving the Marlow and Duncan area, Aug. 20
• Bryan County, serving the Colbert, Achille and Calera areas, Sept. 3
• Coal County, serving the Coalgate area, Sept. 17
• Carter County, serving the Ardmore area, Oct. 1
• Murray County, serving the Sulphur area, Oct. 15
• Pontotoc County, serving the Ada area, Oct. 29
• Johnston County, serving the Tishomingo area, Nov. 12
Farmers to Families Food Program
As part of the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program, it was announced April 17 the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be exercising authority under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to purchase and distribute agricultural products to those in need.
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service partnered with national, regional and local suppliers, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses, to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products to be distributed to those in need.
According to Joy Standridge, Chickasaw Nation nutrition services deputy director, the program helps producers, food distributors and families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This project is designed to help provide relief to the food supply chain devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Standridge said. “This initiative provides relief to farmers and distributors who lost demand for their food products. It provides relief to food banks and other nonprofits by making sure the products are made available already packed in boxes, which reduces the number of volunteers needed to work each event.”
The federal program will purchase $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in a variety of dairy products, $258 million in meat products and $175 million in a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products nationally, according to Standridge.
Suppliers will package these products totaling $1.2 billion into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other nonprofits serving Americans in need.
According to Standridge, thus far, Farmers to Families has served a total of 2,100 families, distributed 102,720 pounds of food and provided 2,000 meals to children.
The partnership between the Chickasaw Nation and USDA provided 600 Purcell families with 18,600 pounds of food; 500 Marietta families received 33,000 pounds of food, as did 500 Kingston families. In Chickasha, 500 families were served with food totaling 18,120 pounds.
At the food distribution event in Purcell, families received a 25-pound box of fresh produce containing items such as apples, oranges, carrots, tomatoes, onions, potatoes and dried beans. Families also received a 10-pound box of protein containing frozen chicken. Depending on inventory of food boxes, regional distributors and local availability, the food box contents may vary from location to location.
Purcell resident Sandra Roberts voiced admiration to have this resource offered to the public.
“It means everything to have this available to the community,” Roberts said. “My husband and I are on a fixed income. It can be hard to get by, to make ends meet. We are glad friends told us to come out today to get this food.”
After seeing the event on the Chickasaw Nation’s Facebook page, Seby Ramirez and 5-year-old Enrique traveled from Oklahoma City to attend the food distribution event.
“My aunt told me to look at the Chickasaw Nation’s Facebook page for details,” Ramirez said. “I had asked her to help me out with some food a couple of days ago. I ran out of food stamps, I had barely anything in the house for us to eat. This is really helping.”
For more information on upcoming distributions, contact Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services at 580-436-7255.