More Tribal Casinos Step Up With Food Donations to Alleviate Burden of COVID-19

Foxwoods Resort Casino donated 22,000 pounds of food to help Connecticut families in need. (Courtesy Foxwoods Resort Casino/Facebook)

Gaming Tribes are providing tremendous support to their members and surrounding communities — even as they contend with the current and temporary disappearance of their most consistent revenue generator, land-based casinos.

READ MORE: Gary Davis in USA Today: US Government Must Honor Commitments to Native Americans

The financial impact of COVID-19 on Tribal casinos, the lifeline of some Native economies, is dire. Across more than 500 Tribal gaming properties, an estimated 296,000 people are out of work, though casino closures have cost hundreds of thousands of affiliated jobs as well. Overall, the novel coronavirus has resulted in the loss of an estimated 728,000 jobs tied to Tribal gaming, and $4.4 billion in economic activity created by Tribal casinos, states a recent report by Meister Economic Consulting.

READ MORE: Report: Tribal Casino Closures Result in Loss of $4.4B in Economic Activity, 728K Jobs

Due to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, the number of people who are struggling to have their basic needs met is much higher. To offset those burdens, gaming Tribes are stepping up to care for their communities and elders with massive food donations. 

Native Business recently shined a light on the substantial contributions of food and beverage from seven Tribal gaming enterprises: Pechanga Resort Casino, Gun Lake Casino, Four Winds Casinos, Angel of the Winds Casino Resort, Quil Ceda Creek Casino, Gila River Gaming Enterprises and Ute Mountain Casino Hotel.

READ MORE: Closed Tribal Casinos Donate Tons of Food in Time of Need

Now, we highlight even more Tribes demonstrating their unwavering commitment to their elders and broader communities during this unprecedented time. While our second roundup of Tribal food donations is inevitably incomplete, it offers a snapshot of the way Tribes, guided by traditional Native American values, are leveraging their resources for the benefit of the collective.

Below we feature donations by seven more gaming Tribes: Cherokee Nation, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Mohegan Tribe, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Squaxin Island Tribe, White Earth Nation, and Barona Band of Mission Indians.

Cherokee Nation

Not only has the Cherokee Nation cleared its casino pantry shelves to ensure that more than 4,000 elderly and disabled Cherokee citizens have plenty of food, the Nation has also spent more than $350,000 to purchase more food.

“As the COVID-19 virus makes its way to the Cherokee Nation, it is our top priority to ensure our citizens are taken care of, especially the more vulnerable population such as our elders and the disabled. With this emergency food for elders project that we established with our emergency funds, we can ensure food is not a worry for them,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin. “We have already taken several steps to keep our community safe and we will continue to work on additional ways to make a difference. As a community, we will get through this challenging time together.”

Cherokee Nation employees load both non-perishable and perishable food items for distribution to community organizations across the Cherokee Nation, which distribute the food to Cherokee elders. (Courtesy Cherokee Nation)

San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

San Manuel Band of Mission Indians recently donated more than 40,000 pounds of food and supplies to Feeding America Riverside | San Bernardino (FARSB).

“We know that there are so many people who are in need right now; many have lost their jobs or had their hours greatly cut back and cannot provide basic necessities for their families,” said Lynn Valbuena, Chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. “The Tribe’s giving spirit is deeply rooted in in our beliefs and values that call on us to care for and support one another in times of need.”

“San Manuel Band of Mission Indians continues to be a strong partner in the fight against hunger,” said Carolyn Solar, Philanthropy Director at FARSB. “Thanks to their timely donation, residents in the San Bernardino region received much needed items to support their families during COVID-19.” (Photo Courtesy San Manuel)

Mohegan Tribe

Faced with refrigerators full of food across its various dining facilities, Mohegan Sun sent two truckloads of food (some 15,000 meals) to the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Bank in New London, Connecticut. The 20 pallets were stacked with fruit, vegetables, dairy products and other perishable food items. 

“It’s been a tough week for many communities and businesses alike, but to team up with United Way of Southeastern Connecticut and ensure we make good use of a significant amount of surplus food, was really inspiring,” Jeff Hamilton, President & General Manager of Mohegan Sun, said in a press release. “We’re incredibly thankful to everyone who was involved in this effort and hope it is a positive contribution to the dedicated work that organizations like United Way and food centers like Gemma E. Moran do every day.”

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation

Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation donated more than 22,000 pounds of food to the Gemma E. Moran Food Bank through a relationship with the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut. This amount of food is expected to generate more than 18,350 meals for families in need.

Squaxin Island Tribe

“Why let good food go to waste?” Little Creek Resort Casino posted on Facebook after closing to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Food and beverage managers at the Washington State property gifted employees packages of food to lend assistance amid the health and economic crisis. 

“It is moments like this that connect us as a team. While we all look forward to when we can be at work together, we are still Little Creek Strong!” the casino, owned and operated by the Squaxin Island Tribe, announced on its Facebook page.

Food and beverage managers from Little Creek Resort Casino prepared and packaged foods to be taken home by employees during this difficult time. (Courtesy Little Creek Resort Casino/Facebook)

White Earth Nation

The Mahnomen, Minnesota-based Shooting Star Casino may be closed to the public, but it is now the base of operations for the White Earth Emergency Management Team and Elder Nutrition Program.

Each weekday, the team provides 1,000 meals to White Earth elders, according to DL-Online. The program isn’t new, it’s simply altered since the beginning of the pandemic — pickups are no longer allowed; all meals are delivered by the team.

“We must continue to come together as a community to slow the impact of COVID-19. We’ve seen that happen. And we’ll continue to see it,” Scott Stevens, Shooting Star General Manager, said in a press release. “We look forward to welcoming everyone back when we resume operations. Together, we’ll get through this.”

A wild rice hot meal with a side of green beans and bread is one of the meals that White Earth elders received. (Courtesy White Earth)

Barona Band of Mission Indians

Chefs and the food & beverage team at Barona Resort & Casino have been delivering truckloads of food to Lakeside School District in California and Meals on Wheels amid the COVID-19 pandemic — enough to feed 1,000 people a day.

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