Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. joined dozens of national leaders on Sept. 28 for the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.
The event, hosted by President Joe Biden, was the first of its kind in more than 50 years to bring government leaders, including tribal leaders, academics and activists together to achieve ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases in the United States by 2030.
The conference was held at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.
“ The Cherokee Nation supports the Biden Administration‚s efforts to address food insecurity and is proud to partner with the USDA on tribal specific programs for our citizens. The recent impact of the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the surface a stark reminder about the importance of addressing the food security issues that continue to impact citizens of the Cherokee Nation and other tribal nations across the United States,” Chief Hoskin said. “During the pandemic, Cherokee Nation served more than 300,000 Cherokee citizens the equivalent of 14 million meals across the Cherokee Nation Reservation. Through USDA‚s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations – or FDPIR – Cherokee Nation currently serves more than 10,200 individuals and 5,000 households each month. Participating in today‚s conference allows me the opportunity to advocate for permanent authorization of this USDA program and additional funding to Indian Country, which would allow our tribes to significantly reduce the rates of food insecurity on tribal reservations.”
Within the Cherokee Nation, Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner have advocated for food sustainability, reducing poverty and committed to more wellness programs and investments in health care. Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner worked with the Council of the Cherokee Nation to commit $80 million to address poverty barriers that exist in the Cherokee Nation as part of the tribe‚s COVID-19 Respond, Recover and Rebuild plan. As part of that plan, Chief Hoskin called for the tribe‚s first ever task force committed to addressing these issues.
Earlier this year, Chief Hoskin and Deputy Warner signed the revised “Public Health and Wellness Fund Act” earmarking $15 million over the next three years to help construct drug treatment facilities in the Cherokee Nation.
In addition, the Health and Wellness Fund Act will generate more funding for physical and mental wellness programs by broadening the type of third-party revenue Cherokee Nation Health Services sets aside. Under the act Cherokee Nation is planning multi-million wellness and activity facilities in rural areas and will create and expand outdoor wellness infrastructure, such as walking trails.
The tribe also committed to taking a more direct role in food production by constructing a new meat processing facility to help supplement the Cherokee Nation‚s traditional food distribution program for elders and families in need. The processing plant is expected to operate as a local farmto- table operation for lean bison meat from the Cherokee Nation‚s bison herd.
During the conference, Chief Hoskin advocated for more ways to fight hunger and promote wellness in the reservation.
Chief Hoskin advocated for the USDA to allow traditional foods grown and raised on the reservation to be provided through the federal food program, as these traditional foods are often healthier sources of nutrition for citizens and can prevent further health disparities among the tribal population.
He also advocated for tribal nations to have flexibility in using their own drought monitors as part of the Livestock Forage Program.
“Northeast Oklahoma has experienced record heat waves and brutal weather conditions that livestock and pasture lands cannot sustain for weeks at a time,” Chief Hoskin said. “Cherokee Nation is uniquely situated to evaluate and determine the needs of Cherokee producers. As a tribal government, we are aware of the evolving and pressing needs of our citizens. The U.S. Drought Monitor alone is an insufficient measure of the needs of Cherokee producers.”