MISSION – Food was distributed each Tuesday in October and again Nov. 3 to nearly 250 employees of Wildhorse Resort & Casino, many of who were furloughed or laid off earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nine volunteers loaded into vehicles “box kits” of food in two shifts – one in the morning and one in the afternoon on Oct. 13. There were two food boxes, one that contained chest and butter, and another with meat – plus bags of other items like milk and frozen fish, as well as salad vegetables, fruit cups and yogurt.
Gary George, CEO at Wildhorse Resort & Casino, said the food was provided through the USDA “Farmers to Families” program through a count representative from Sysco. There was no cost to Wildhorse or to the government of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR).
“Wildhorse and our entities are part of the tourism and hospitality related industries and all tourism and hospitality took a big economic hit with COVID and everyone staying at home,” George said in an e-mail to the CUJ.
Wildhorse entities include the casino and resort operations, Arrowhead Travel Plaza, Mission Market, Hamley Steakhouse, and Birch Creek golf course.
George said a majority of the Wildhorse workforce are employed at entry-level positions.
“In fact, 667 WRC employees are making $15 [per hour] or less,” George said. “This includes 146 employees who are making minimum wage of $11.50. So offering the Free Food Box program helped our employees during the pandemic,” George said.
The CTUIR offers USDA Farmers to Families box kits to reservation residents on Saturdays. The USDA food kits contain potatoes, carrots and apples, plus a box of dairy products (cheese and butter) and a carton of eggs.