FireLake Discount Foods recently donated $5,000 to the Community Market. Left to right, Michael Lester, Daniel Mathews and Nicole Sanchez.

FireLake Discount Foods contributed more than $50,000 to local charities in 2016, a number the company typically matches annually. The tribal enterprise recently assisted Tecumseh Public Schools’ food program and awarded $5,000 to the Community Market of Pottawatomie County.

“We believe it makes for a better community for all of us when our people and businesses pay it forward,” said FireLake Discount Foods Director Richard Driskell. “When our staff sees Citizen Potawatomi Nation helping others, it gives them a sense of pride and purpose.”

FireLake Discount Foods provided a freezer and grocery shelving for the Tecumseh Public Schools food pantry. The project, which offers food to students in middle school and high school, was inspired by a similar program in the neighboring community of Shawnee. The service is open to students and families in the Tecumseh community. Through Mission Tecumseh, a faith-based foodbank program, the school receives food donations from Feed the Children.

A food pantry helps to fill the cabinets for students of Tecumseh Public Schools.

“We received the request from the school and decided to help because one of our community outreach goals is to fight hunger in our area,” Driskell added. “Helping Tecumseh schools open up a food pantry for its students aligns with that goal.”

School officials conducted a study to determine the needs of students at school sites throughout Tecumseh and recognized that there was an opportunity to fill a need in the community.

“There is a need in our community to support families and to be a resource in times of need,” said Julie McCormick, Tecumseh Public Schools assistant superintendent and special services director. “We already provide ‘Backpacks for Kids’ for the elementary students where they will get food to take home for the weekend. We felt that, with the number of children we serve with that program at the elementary level, we needed to provide for the middle school and high school students as well. We support and provide whenever there is a need, so the number of students at the secondary level we serve is always changing as needs arise.”

A joint effort between FireLake Discount Foods and Post/Malt-O-Meal helped spur another donation to the Community Market. FDF staff created the world’s largest Malt-O-Meal cereal display, which had a total of 110 pallets, approximately 35,000 bags of cereal.

“We choose Community Market because the funds will go to fight hunger by helping school kids not to go to school hungry,” Driskell said. “Community Market is a great resource for people locally that need food but can’t afford it.”

The market serves the people who otherwise couldn’t afford groceries in a normalized shopping environment. Individuals select foods from shelves of donated items. A partnership with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma makes the Community Market possible. It served 18,000 people in its first year.

“We use the funds to help us procure food especially fresh and healthy stuff for our kids program,” said Community Market Director Daniel Mathews. “Every dollar that they give provides about 20 pounds of food, including a large amount of fresh produce.”

The Citizen Potawatomi Nation contributed more than $2 million to local organizations in the 2016 fiscal year. Oklahoma schools received more than $260,000 and the tribe awarded more than $5 million in higher education scholarships.