Chickasaw Nation makes history fighting child hunger

ADA, Okla. – The Chickasaw Nation is making history as it becomes the first Native American tribe in the U.S. to partner with the United States Department of Agriculture on a unique program to feed hungry children, it was announced Wednesday.

“Nowhere else in Indian Country do we have an Indian tribal organization feeding children in (the USDA’s) At-Risk Children’s Feeding Program,” proclaimed Audrey Rowe, USDA Food and Nutrition Services Administrator, at a special gathering to announce the partnership.

The tribe and the USDA have partnered for many years to promote healthy lifestyles and fight hunger. This USDA grant program is unique in that it targets at-risk children on the medical center campus. If a child is examined or has a routine appointment at the medical center, the first question asked is “are you hungry or have you eaten today?” If the child answers ‘no,’ a nutritious, healthy meal is provided.

In addition, the program will provide a meal to any child at the medical center, even if the child is not receiving medical care.

Only two medical facilities in the nation are involved in the program to ensure children are fed, Rowe said. The other is Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.

“There is first-hand, innovative, out-of-the-box thinking that is going on here,” Rowe said. “Together with the Chickasaw Nation we are feeding children at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, which I find really exciting.”

“The leadership we see here is making this a reality for children in the Chickasaw Nation,” Rowe continued, adding “the willingness to say ‘yes’ to the future is what Governor Bill Anoatubby is doing. He is saying yes to the future because he understands how important what we do today will be for future governors of the Chickasaw Nation,” Rowe added.

Rowe praised Gov. Anoatubby’s “contribution, commitment, caring, and understanding. It is so refreshing.”

During his remarks, Gov. Anoatubby cited statistics that show one in three families in this country live in poverty and one in five children go to bed hungry.

“That is just not right. It is unconscionable for any child to go hungry. That is why we are working with the USDA to help change that.” Gov. Anoatubby said. “We are working diligently to help bring those statistics down because we’re talking about more than a statistic, we’re talking about people.”

Gov. Anoatubby said the Chickasaw Nation’s long partnership with the USDA is making it possible for the tribe to reach out and focus on young people.

“This is just another way we can contribute to the overall health and wellness of all the children who come to the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center. It is an investment in healthy lifestyles and we are very pleased to be partners with (USDA) in this endeavor,” he said.

This announcement comes only a few weeks after the Chickasaw Nation was awarded a grant of $9.7 million to support the Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services Demonstration Project to End Childhood Hunger, a program that will deliver food to homes with children who qualify for free school meals, Rowe announced.

That Chickasaw Nation demonstration program will allow families to shop for groceries online to be delivered directly to their homes by the charity Feed the Children. Families will also receive benefit checks to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at authorized grocery stores, officials said.

Governor Bill Anoatubby and Audrey Rowe
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby welcomes Audrey Rowe, USDA food and nutrition services administrator, to the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, Wednesday, April 8.