Groundbreaking held for “new” Tribal Foods Distribution building

by May 20, 2022NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments



One Feather Staff


The Tribal Foods Distribution Program of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) will move into its new home next summer.  A groundbreaking was held on the warm afternoon of Thursday, May 19 for a project that will see a part of an existing building renovated and part of it torn down and rebuilt as a two-story, nearly 8,000 square feet addition for the Program.

Tribal and USDA officials break ground on the new building that will house the EBCI Tribal Foods Distribution Program and the EBCI Tribal Cannery. Shown, left to right, are Joey Owle, EBCI Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources; Yellowhill Rep. David Wolfe; Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe; Cherokee Co. – Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha; Painttown Rep. Dike Sneed; Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley; Izra Brown, deputy regional administrator for the USDA Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta; Dr. Lilly Bouie, USDA Food & Nutrition Service regional director; and Frank Dunn Sr., Tribal Foods representative. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

The building is the old home of The Cherokees craft business and, once completed, will house both the EBCI Tribal Foods Distribution Program and the EBCI Tribal Cannery.

“This has been a moment our team has been looking forward to for a while,” said Frank Dunn Sr., Tribal Foods representative.  “We would not be gathered here today without the support of many key stakeholders.”

He added, “Our team is looking forward to the possibilities of what this renovated structure will mean as we safely serve our community from a pandemic-ready building that will last for the next generations that follow.”

Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley commented, “We’ve learned over the past two years what it means to have a food source for our people with the pandemic.”

He said the last few years have been rough in many places throughout the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  “I’ve seen a lot in my time being in the tribal government.  He and Abe (Wachacha) supported a resolution back in 2000 to put money into new equipment for the Cannery.  The headline of the resolution was to make safe, economical ways and means of protecting our foods.  That’s still true today.”

Vice Chief Ensley said the project was funded through a $5.3 million USDA grant, $4 million in ARP (American Rescue Plan) funds, and $1 million from the capital fund of the EBCI.

EBCI Secretary of Public Health and Human Services Vickie Bradley praised the Tribal Foods Distribution staff and thanked Dunn for getting the ball rolling on the new program.  “The hard work really belongs to this team.  We want to make things better for seven generations.”

She also noted, “We know how to take care of our own better than anyone else. We want to be innovative, and we want to exercise our sovereignty. We want to find synergies throughout the Tribe.”

Secretary Bradley said food insecurity is an issue.  “In our 2018 tribal health assessment, we found out that 25 percent of our respondents said they’d gone without food because of lack of access or lack of funding in the last month…so, when we saw that, Frank and his team immediately began to partner with Manna Food Bank.”

EBCI Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Joey Owle said, “It’s a pleasure to be here and gathered with you all to celebrate this monumental occasion for what’s going to benefit our community, our tribal government, and our future generations into the future for the next 100 years.”

He added, “It’s been a tremendous learning experience over the last year having regular meetings, working on the design, going through the various phases of 40, 50, 70, 90 percent design to make sure that we’re getting what we’re wanting. Getting something that is going to last for years and for decades and for generations to come.”

Frank Dunn Sr., Tribal Foods representative, shows plans of the building to Dr. Lilly Bouie, USDA Food & Nutrition Service regional director.

Secretary Owle spoke highly of the Tribal Cannery noting, “That cannery has been around a long time. It’s made a lot of products. It’s served a lot of people. It’s served multiple generations of Cherokee families.”

Looking to the future of what the Tribal Cannery and Tribal Food Distribution Program will be, he noted, “It’s truly 21st century, 22nd century thinking with what we’re moving forward with this project.”

Dr. Lilly Bouie, USDA Food & Nutrition Service regional director, was on hand for Thursday’s event and said she felt “the energy and a level of support and collaboration” with the tribal programs.

“Thanks to the team, all of you all who stand today or who sit and you provide services in various places so that families in the communities benefit from the services that you already provide. We thank you for every contribution that you have made and the contributions that you will make in the future as a result of this foundation that sits behind me. We know already that it will benefit the families here.”

She further said, “As gaps in services are identified, possibly there are more children and families who could benefit from more food. And, with this gap in service being identified, you’re going to fill that gap through the foundation, through the services that you will continue to provide.”

Dr. Bouie concluded with, “We walk hand-in-hand with you all the way.”

She was joined by Izra Brown, deputy regional administrator for the USDA Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta, who said, “To me, the impact of this whole project just encourages me even more to catch a vision…what we’re looking at is just catching a vision, not of where we’re at currently, but where we will be a couple of months from now, a couple of years from now, just how important this strategic partnership can be and how much further it can go.”

For more information on the Tribal Food Distribution Program, visit: