Byline: Kaylea Berry/Reporter
GLENPOOL, Oklahoma – The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Elderly Nutrition Program hosted its Elderly Nutrition Food Show at the Glenpool Conference Center on Aug. 16. More than 180 elders attended the show and tried new foods from eight different vendors. Menu items included panini’s, lasagna, fruit, desserts, and other meats and side dishes.
The Food Show is a collaboration between the MCN program and its food distributor, Sysco, bringing in different products for purchase. The event presented possible meals for the upcoming fall and winter menu starting in October 2022.
Ryan Parker, Sysco New Business Developer and Chef said, “We organize those [sites] with new products in the market. Then take those new innovative items that haven’t been on previous menu cycles, locate, target those items, bring them in, and cook them to let the elders try them so that we don’t rule out something new to 10 sites.”
The meal options are well-balanced and account for various nutritional needs. Determining what foods are more popular among the members ensures that foods are not wasted or over-ordered. Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter menus are on rotation for six months.
Elders who attend the event are given a survey booklet that includes an area for comments and a “Yes” or “No” voting option for the foods each vendor is serving. Based on the surveys, the foods with the most positive responses are added to the new menu, bringing variety to participants.
MCN Food Distribution Services Director Anna Sterner explained, “Sometimes it’s so overwhelming with all the food choices, so we made it eight vendors this year. Hopefully, that will help them a little bit to keep track of their comments on the survey of which foods they like and don’t like.”
Muscogee citizen Matilda King, Holdenville Elders Chairman, is 83 years old and joined the program after retirement. When asked what her favorite aspect of the program is, she responded, “The food, but the fellowship with one another. We tell each other our problems, and we tell each other about our kids.” She enjoys being able to make new friends through the program.
Muscogee citizen Emma Lowe said, “You ask yourself what they put into this when you find something really good.” Lowe shared that she enjoys trying new foods; some of the items were delicious, and some were spicy. She also commented, “I enjoy coming up here. Especially seeing all the people from the other communities, some that you haven’t seen in a while, some that can talk your language, some that can understand.”
MCN Elderly Nutrition employees from all ten centers throughout the MCN jurisdiction helped serve the 184 attendees, which is only a fraction of the Nation’s program participants. The ten nutrition sites serve between 11,000 and 12,000 meals to citizens and other Federally-Recognized tribal members within the MCN communities. This was the first show in almost three years due to COVID-19.
Sterner said, “Food has been so hard to get since COVID, so we’ve had to think outside the box on some things.”
The MCN Elderly Nutrition Program is a Title VI program that is federally and tribally funded. Sterner explained, “The majority of our funding comes from the tribe for us to be able to keep ten sites open and feed them five days a week, but since we do accept federal funding, we have to abide by their rules and regulations, their policies.”
The MCN Elderly Nutrition Centers are located in Bristow, Coweta, Wetumka, Dewar, Muskogee, Sapulpa, Eufaula, Okemah, Holdenville, and Okmulgee, Okla. The program’s locations provide free meals Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for elders 55 years of age or older and have a Certified Degree of Indian Blood card from any Federally-Recognized tribe.
To participate in the program, elders must provide a copy of their CDIB card and complete an intake form. Once enrolled, members can eat at any of the ten facilities. Guests are welcome but must pay a guest meal fee of $8 (subject to change).
A detailed list of the program guidelines, the address and contact number for each nutrition center, and additional information can be found on the Elderly Nutrition Program website or by contacting the program’s main number at 918-549-2401.