Press release from the Blue Lake Rancheria:
To minimize the health risks that tribal elders face amid the coronavirus, the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe’s Elder Nutrition Program is delivering three weeks of food at a time to those enrolled in the program. The food program helps approximately 70 elders in Humboldt County from as far south as Rio Dell, north to Trinidad and east to Weaverville, totaling 1,450 square miles of service area. “We know coronavirus poses a greater threat to the elderly,” Jason Ramos, Blue Lake Rancheria tribal council member, said. “So we are determined to safely deliver food to elders, so they can shelter-in-place at home and not worry about their next meal.”
The Blue Lake Rancheria’s essential employees are working overtime to make the pre-packaged meals, and kitchen staff from the tribe’s restaurants that temporarily closed, have been pulled in to help. “We have double the number of employees we normally do working on the meals,” Deb Winkle, the tribe’s food program director, said. So far over 12,000 meals have been prepared and stored away for delivery later this week. Fresh produce and ingredients from the casino’s restaurants are being used for the meals, that would have otherwise gone to waste, after Alice’s Restaurant and the Lily Pad temporarily closed due to COVID-19 precautionary measures. In addition, the casino’s freezer space is being used to store thousands of meals.
Amid coronavirus and shelter-in-place orders, the food program is seeing an increase in demand from other organizations and tribes in the region who are seeking information if they, too, can possibly be added to the list for food deliveries. “We are really pulling together our resources to take care of the elderly, who especially depend on us right now,” said Arla Ramsey, the tribe’s vice-chairperson.
Coronavirus is adding another layer of challenges for many tribal elders in reservation communities, who already face food insecurity on a daily basis. According to National Resource Center on Native American Aging, 47% of native elders 55-75+ are at moderate to high nutritional risk and up to 10.7% are in poor health. “We know the need for our food program is there – so we are doing everything in our power to keep this essential program going,” Winkle, said.
The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe declared a state of emergency and ordered a shelter-in-place. The tribe temporarily closed the Blue Lake Casino and Hotel, while keeping essential tribal programs in operation, such as the food program, public transit, and the tribe’s office of emergency services. “We understand this is a really difficult time for everyone,” Arla Ramsey, Blue Lake Rancheria’s vice-chairperson, said. “We are striving to help our community in ways we can in this time of need.”
For more information about the Elder Nutrition Program:
DISCLOSURE: The Blue Lake Rancheria is a minority partner in Lost Coast Communications, the Outpost’s parent company.