Many tribal nations have been focusing on developing food production and distribution programs in the communities they call home. This farm-to-table approach is designed to provide a continual supply of food, preventing against supply chain breaks or disruptions. Locally sourced food is also critical in addressing food insecurity challenges.
A lot of tribes, they’re really focusing upon taking things from farm to table. They’re having their community gardens. They’re creating meat processing plants in order to process their own meats. Not only does that generate jobs and economic development, that’s going to ensure that food is there and available to folks in that area.
For years, Osage Nation had been working to address food insecurity within its community. In 2020, spurred on by COVID-19 and the disruption in food supply, the tribe celebrated the opening of its meat processing facility in Hominy.
The plant provides fresh, locally raised beef, bison and pork that is processed from Osage Nation’s 43,000-acre ranch. A meat market operates at the facility and a retail store is coming soon.
The importance of the plant can’t be overstated. “Being in this small part of the country, we’re kind of at the end of the supply chain,” noted Joe Thompson, manager of the meat processing plant. In addition to the meat plant, Osage Nation maintains a 40,000-square-foot greenhouse and aquaponics farms. The greenhouse brings in 46,000 pounds of produce each year.
Partners in the Pandemic
Food drives and services were just one example of how tribes pitched in during the pandemic. Learn more about how they worked together with communities.
“Throughout rural America, there are people who are having to drive 30 and 40 miles to go the grocery store,” says Michael Southard, senior economic development director for the Choctaw Nation. Those areas, identified as “food deserts,” are regions where access to fresh, healthy food is limited.
For Choctaw Nation, three of the food deserts hit close to home — they were in the southeast Oklahoma towns of Boswell, Coalgate and Clayton. The tribe responded by opening grocery stores in each of the cities, areas where the free market wouldn’t have supplied a store. The grocers offer fresh fruit, vegetables and meat, all within minutes of most residents. “It allows people to have a more normal life,” states Southard.
What priorities can we have to react to this pandemic and to set ourselves up for the future to resist further disruption should another virus come?
We now operate three grocery stores in small towns where the free market would not have supplied a grocery store.
The general public doesn’t realize how many people are food insecure in our state and how many kids are food insecure.
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