GRIC distributes groceries to Districts in Community-wide food distribution

Christopher Lomahquahu

Gila River Indian News


As a result of the surge to grocery stores to stock-up on food and supplies during COVID-19 pandemic, the Gila River Indian Community established food distribution pick-ups across the reservation through coordination with the Office of Emergency Management, Community Services Department, Gila River Hotels & Casinos and other entities.


Staff from the PRIDE Group boxed the items at OEM, which were distributed in each of the Community’s seven districts from March 27-29 and two locations for urban members in Casa Grande and Phoenix.


“In the midst of this crisis, our Casino, Community employees and volunteers came together at a moments notice to provide food for our people,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis. He thanked the departments, districts and volunteers for making the emergency food distribution a success.


Community members picked up milk and eggs on the first day of the distributions. District employees, leaders and volunteers, wore protective equipment during the distribution.


Cars lined up to each of the service centers as Community members waited to pick-up food boxes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In the boxes were multiple dry good items like bread, cereal, oatmeal, potatoes and fruit.


“We feel this is the best and safest way to do that, with the drive through pick-up. It’s working really well,” said Lt. Gov. Robert Stone. He said the planning of the food distributions between OEM, the districts and volunteers has been helpful in organizing the pick-ups.


Those who waited at their district were thankful for the assistance. “It’s hard to get flour and beans, the main essentials that [we] need,” said Sabrina Antone, District 5 resident. “Thanks to the district, they’re helping [us] out, but with that, we have to do our portions (regarding food).”


“When you look at the stores, they’ve been cleared out, it’s very frustrating for those left with little options for food,” said District 4 Council Representative Pamela Johnson. She and other District 4 council representatives, assisted district workers, during the food distribution.


She thinks about the members in her district and across the Community, especially the elders, who are not able to leave their home to get food. “Our drivers are taking the food to [the elders], and we hope to get to all of the households,” said Johnson.


“It is very important the we provide [these] necessities to our Community members,” said District 1 Council Representative Arzie Hogg. “It’s unfortunate some of them aren’t able to make it to the store. There’s chaos with people trying to get the basic essentials.”


“I think it’s pretty good the Community is doing [this], it’s the first time we are going through something like this, but [we] are okay, we’re going to make it,” said District 3 member Richard Pedro.

Others do their best to adjust to the recent rise in COVID-19 restrictions while trying to put food on the table.


“We usually go out in the Community doing stuff, so now we have to stay inside,” said Tiffany Ahmsaty, District 3 member. She added, safeguarding against COVID-19 is important, because her mother is on dialysis, which requires them to be extra careful in sanitizing everything around the house

“It’s really good, I’m glad they’re doing something to help its Community members out, because it’s hard to get the things you need in stores,” said Ahmsaty.


“It’s vital, in the grocery stores there’s very little, it scarce in there,” said Erma Antone District 3 Coordinator. “We’ve dealt with disasters like fires, floods, [this] is definitely a learning experience for [us] and the Community.”