Sat Mar 28th, 2020
Jeremy Wade Shockley
The Southern Ute Drum
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Food Distribution program has seen an uptick in demand from the local community, and increasingly, younger families are benefiting from the service. This was before the COVID-19 crisis increased needs for food supplies throughout the country; especially true in rural communities where resources are often limited. The Southern Ute Food Distribution program continues to provide nutritious and healthy food choices to the community during the crisis under the direction of program manager and Southern Ute tribal member Deanna Frost.
“My participation rate went up since January; we served one hundred more participants in February, totaling 343,” Frost said. “Our tribal member participation rate has gone up tremendously. We started enrolling younger families, from age 19 to mid–30s.”
“New tribal elders have also enrolled in the program, seeing that it is not how it used to be; we have progressed so much!” The program also delivers to tribal elders and disabled. A variety of food items are available, including fresh produce, frozen meats, in addition to shelf stable canned goods, dry goods and boxed cereals.
All of Deanna Frost’s employees are tribal members, many of them are younger, and she attributes some of the new-found community interest in the program to her employees. As the word gets out with the younger generation, many of whom are now the heads of households in their own families, people are signing up.
“We usually only get one shipment. This month we got two because of the virus, people are in need of food. It is just something that happened, so USDA allowed us to order a second shipment in one month’s time. I would expect the demand for food to continue,” Frost stated.
The Southern Ute Food Distribution program is not affected by the Tribe’s recent government closures, as their team is providing a core service to the membership. The Food Distribution center is still open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The staff is now taking extra precautions, which include a deep clean at the end of each day, and some extra set up each morning. Frost askes that community members picking up their food orders accommodate this modified workflow.
“Today is the first day after our big shipment. The front desk phone is usually busy because our admin is taking food orders,” Frost explained. “I am encouraging everyone to call my direct line at 970-563-2531.”
“Our warehouse is fairly small, we can’t store a lot of food. So, it is a relief that we got the second shipment of food in. I do foresee our participant rate raising more.”
Usually customers would simply walk in, but due to precautions surrounding the coronavirus, now no one is allowed inside but staff. “Now we are trying to develop a plan that is appointment based. We still have those that do come, but we encourage people to set up an appointment because it makes it easier for us — and safer for everyone.”
“We’re adapting, but it is a process. I would like the membership to know that we are still adjusting and evolving to the current situation. Please bear with us and be patient. Eventually we will get it to run as smooth as possible,” she reiterated. “We have a big white dry erase board outside [with instructions], we will deliver the food to the car and fill out the issuance form.”
Because of the high demand, new enrollments are limited to tribal members and Native American families from a recognized tribe. The program will continue to serve non-native families from inside the Southern Ute Reservation who are already enrolled in the program. Frost is currently trying to tie their program into the USDA Foods Disaster Assistance, which would allow the Tribal program to order more, in an effort to feed a broader community base.
“I would like to thank my staff for having the courage to come in everyday throughout this virus — working and doing a great job!”
The Food Distribution center is located in downtown Ignacio, at 740 Goddard Ave.