Emergency Food Box Helps Navajo Native Through Harsh Winter

Emergency Food Box Helps Navajo Native Through Harsh Winter

Many Native Americans find themselves in constant distress, facing food shortages, subpar housing and limited access to health care, utilities and transportation. In fact, 1 in 6 Native American families lives below the poverty level.

This is why the Navajo Relief Fund (NRF), a program of Partnership With Native Americans® (PWNA), assists Natives in need through its Emergency Food Box service. These boxes full of essential items like water, nonperishable foods, batteries, cleaning supplies and more are distributed to Native Elders on remote reservations through trusted program partners like Virginia at the Tsaile/Wheatfields Senior Center in Tsaile, Arizona.

Navajo Native Herbert was one recipient of this year’s emergency food boxes. Looking back on his childhood, he recalled his parents’ hard-working attitude as his father worked in construction for nearly his entire life. Attending school in Phoenix from third grade until he graduated in 1974, Herbert spent his summers back home in Tsaile herding sheep with his family. He still lives close to three siblings and three of his daughters.

After school, Herbert had a difficult time starting his career. “It was hard to get a job around here.” He began working in housekeeping in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before moving to Durango, Colorado, as a maintenance worker. Surrounded by mountains all his life, he continued traveling while working with the forestry service and ultimately ended his career with a trucking company in Salt Lake City, Utah, before returning home to Tsaile.

Now retired, Herbert received social security income for roughly six months until it stopped, and he is “hoping it comes back.” Living in a trailer in the mountains, Herbert shared that the recent winter months have been particularly cruel. Already receiving five truckloads of wood within three months, he expects he’ll need at least two more by spring. Wood is an expensive necessity these days, as one load may cost upwards of $200 in some areas of the Navajo Nation.

Herbert is grateful to live without many health issues and be somewhat able to get around on his own. As a caring member of his community, he struggles with being unable to assist those around him. “I like to go help, but I can’t anymore.” Herbert likes to read in his free time and loves sports, particularly rodeos.

Despite his share of challenges, Herbert’s resiliency is shown through his smile and constant reassurance in saying, “I’ll be okay.” His brother will often take him to town for groceries and supplies – roughly 53 miles to Window Rock or 78 miles to Gallup, New Mexico – although his food stamps typically last just one month. Grateful for the emergency food box, Herbert thanks NRF donors: “I appreciate your help and kindness. It helps a lot since I’m here alone.”

Make your contribution to NRF today to continue supporting Natives in need like Herbert in his remote reservation community.

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