Community program prioritizes food security

Southern Ute Food Distribution Program Manager, Edward Box III walks through the program's refrigerator where all the fresh produce is stored. Fresh produce is delivered weekly to the program.
Food Distribution stock clerks help load a customer's food order into their vehicle on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum

The Southern Ute Tribal Service’s Food Distribution Program is working hand in hand with the community and tribal membership to ensure food security during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the future.  

“This program not only assists the tribal membership, but it is a program that the community can utilize as well,” Food Distribution Program Manager, Edward Box III said. “This program offers a shopping experience and people are able to choose from fresh produce, frozen fruits and meat, and a variety of canned foods.” 

Box recently joined the program as the manager in July 2021. He has worked for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe for over 20 years in various departments as a youth employer, KSUT Tribal Radio DJ, Southern Ute Police Department Dispatcher and most recently as Director of the Southern Ute Culture Preservation Department.  

Each month, eligible and participating households can visit the food program to receive food packages full of nutritionally balanced foods.  

  • Frozen ground beef, beef roast, chicken, canned meats, and poultry. 
  • Canned fruits & vegetables, canned soups, and spaghetti sauce. 
  • Macaroni & cheese, pasta, cereals, rice, and other grains. 
  • Cheese, egg mix, low-fat ultra-high-temperature milk (UHT), non-fat dry milk, and evaporated milk. 
  • Flour, cornmeal, bakery mix, and reduced sodium crackers. 
  • Low-fat refried beans, dried beans, and dehydrated potatoes. 
  • Juices and dried fruit. 
  • Peanuts and peanut butter. 
  • Red potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes. 
  • Fruit – apples, oranges, and mixed fruit (oranges/apples). 
  • Frozen fruits and meet are available as well. 

 The Commodity Distribution Program is a nutritional enrichment program designed by Congress in 1987 to safeguard the general health and wellbeing of low-income families living on Indian Reservations.  Eligibility for the program’s benefits is based in part on income, residence on the reservation or near the service area, as well as resource guidelines established by the federal government.  

“Providing this food service to families is important; food is a tool of survival and keeps us nourished so we want to ensure that our families are fed because this is what keeps us going and lifts our spirits,” Box stated. 

The staff at Southern Ute Food Distribution strive to increase awareness of the services offered to those households who might otherwise have no knowledge of the program. “We currently serve 66 households through this program, and that is a total of 138 people in those households who are certified and qualify for the program,” Box said. “The staff here supports the journey to better nutrition within our Native community by encouraging healthy food choices and promoting physical activity.” 

The Tribe has designated La Plata (excluding the city of Durango) and Archuleta counties in Colorado as its near areas where tribal members can receive program services.  Effective February 1994, those Native American households living in defined “near areas” of the Southern Ute Reservation may also participate in the Food Program if at least one household member is a member of federally recognized Indian Tribe — regardless of that member’s age. 

“This service is a really good benefit for families, and we want everyone to know that we’re here to help because right now during this pandemic access to food is one thing families shouldn’t have to stress about—this program can provide [essential food],” Box stated. “We’re here for you.” 

Visit the Food Distribution Center in downtown Ignacio, at 740 Goddard Ave. or call their main line for all questions 970.563.2530 

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