TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a waiver request by Cherokee Nation that allows the tribe to serve citizens living in Bartlesville through its food distribution program.

Until the waiver approval, citizens eligible for the tribe’s Food Distribution Program that lived in Bartlesville could not receive benefits due to residing in an urban area. Under Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations regulations, an urban place is defined as having a population of 10,000 or more.

“We are appreciative that the U.S. Department of Agriculture recognized the need and approved the waiver that allows our tribe to better serve its citizens,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “The food distribution program can mean everything to a family, and it is so great that we will be able to now extend that blessing to tribal citizens living in the city of Bartlesville.”

Currently, the Cherokee Nation Food Distribution Program serves about 5,100 households per month through its seven food distribution centers inside the tribe’s jurisdiction. The USDA waiver allows the tribe to fill a service gap area of about 3,118 Cherokee Nation citizens in Bartlesville.

“We have had inquiries from clients requesting to apply for our food distribution program, and unfortunately, we’ve had to tell them that we were not able to serve them,” said Leah Duncan, Food Distribution Manager for the Cherokee Nation. “Now they’ll be able to get those services through Cherokee Nation.”

District 12 member of the Council of the Cherokee Nation Dora Patzkowski said the waiver is a blessing for tribal citizens living in Bartlesville needing that hand-up.

“The Food Distribution Program is such a blessing to Cherokee Nation citizens who are not necessarily looking for a hand-out, but may need a hand-up in life,” Patzkowski said. “Due to regulations beyond the tribe’s control, we were not able to help citizens in need that lived in Bartlesville until the recently approved waiver. Therefore, I am so proud and thankful for the work of our staff who spent an immeasurable amount of time and energy to secure the USDA waiver in order to serve Cherokee Nation citizens in Bartlesville.”

Eligible Cherokee Nation citizens living in the city of Bartlesville can begin utilizing the tribe’s Food Distribution Program on Sept. 3. The nearest Cherokee Nation Food Distribution Center facilities to Bartlesville are located in Nowata at 1018 Lenape Drive and Collinsville at 1101 N. 12th.

For more information on the Cherokee Nation Food Distribution Program, visit www.cherokee.org or call 800-865-4462.