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Commodities Covid 19 1USDA Food Commodities staff goes out every day, protecting themselves with homemade masks, Rubbermaid gloves and protective shields given to them by the Sault Tribe Health Division. ACFS Director Juanita Bye is proud of her staff. “These people are doing everything they can to make sure others get the food they need to survive,” she said.

Led by USDA Director Tony Nertoli, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Food Commodities Program has made major adjustments to address food needs during the pandemic. Social distancing objectives have meant traditional food distribution methodology needed to change.

Customers are no longer able to “shop the warehouse.” The warehouse is closed and now staff members fill out food orders. Staffers schedule individual appointments and provide curbside pickup service for their customers. “This way, our program can meet social distancing goals and keep everyone safe,” Bye said.

The tailgate operation has also changed. There are no longer congregations of people at pick up times. Staff members ask customers to stay in the cars and pull up one at a time to pick up food that has been pre-packaged by staffers based on customer’s previous months’ orders.

Working through the pandemic, the Food Commodities Program is reaching 700-800 families. It is expected that this number will increase dramatically as more and more people are laid off from work. Bye said the tribe will be whatever it can to keep up with demand. “We will keep working hard," she said. "I just keep picturing myself in their position, knowing that this is their only food source."

Photo: Warehouse Crew Marty Nolan, Richard Rapson, Les Hill and Eric MacDonald (missing from photo: Darin Trumbly).

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Photo by Ken Bosma / CC BY