27

Dec

Strawberry Hoop House


Fresh, nutritious, organically grown strawberries will be finding their way into the diet of kids in the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Kids Cafe program next spring thanks to a new project that Urban Harvest has been working on this past fall. The project has involved many hours of renovating the hoop house, installing special vertically stacked grow pots onto poles, installing an overhead drip irrigation system and planting strawberries.  This was all completed with the generous help of volunteers.

The “Strawberry House” protects the plants from extreme weather and is heated and cooled by rolling the sides up and down in response to the outside temperature.  Inside the house there are five 40’ long rows with twelve to thirteen poles per row.  Each pole supports seven stacked special pots that are able to grow 6 plants per pot, or 42 plants per pole, which equals about 546 plants per row.  We are able to grow over 3,000 plants using this system.

The overhead drip watering system will efficiently and economically feed the plants nutrients from a combination of water from the aquaponics system and worm compost from the worm farm.  Additional growing space below the pots will support more strawberries and other companion plants for attracting beneficial insects.  Another benefit of growing in this system is that the plants will produce berries earlier and higher yields than traditional ground grown plants – with fewer disease issues.

Urban Harvest made growing food for the Regional Food Bank’s kids feeding programs its primary mission in 2010. Other fresh food, such as tomatoes, peppers, okra, lettuce, sweet potatoes and fruit from the orchard, will join the strawberries on the plates of thousands of kids during 2011, supplementing foods purchased for the programs.

Urban Harvest is looking for motivated and dedicated volunteers to help grow food for kids in the 2011 growing season.  A special volunteer group will be organized in February (date to be announced in January). This group will receive classroom and hands-on training on how to plant, grow and harvest fruits and vegetables with Urban Harvest.  The volunteers will work with the new strawberry system, the aquaponics system and traditional field crops on specified days convenient for the each volunteer.

For more information on volunteering for this special group, contact me (Bruce Edwards, Urban Harvest Director) at bedwards@regionalfoodbank.org or call 405-604-7108. This is a great way to help us further our mission of “Fighting Hunger … Feeding Hope!”

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards is the Director of the Urban Harvest program, an urban agricultural program of the Regional Food Bank that works to increase food security by making fresh fruits and vegetables available to hungry Oklahomans.
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22

Dec

Made in Oklahoma


When I was a kid, I didn’t realize that shopping could be so hard.   When I go to Walmart, it takes me a few minutes to choose between toothpaste that will whiten my teeth and toothpaste with cavity protection.  What’s a girl to do?  My life gets pretty chaotic around the holidays, and that last thing I want to think about is choosing which brand of toothpaste to purchase.

Luckily for me, the last time I bought paper towels was a no brainer.  The Made in Oklahoma Coalition has great, inexpensive paper towels that help fight childhood hunger by donating a portion of the proceeds to the Oklahoma Food Networks Food for Kids program.  I picked up an 8 pack and tossed it in my cart.

The paper towels are quilted and great for cleaning.   They will definitely come in handy at my holiday party this weekend.  I don’t want to call people out, but someone spilled hot chocolate all over the kitchen this year.  Let’s just say that I’m more than prepared to combat hot chocolate this year with these paper towels!

Angie Gaines

Angie Gaines

Angie Gaines is the Marketing Manager at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. In 2005, she graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Public Relations.
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21

Dec

Holiday Care and Share Box Distribution


Lines began forming hours before the place opened. Boxes were stacked neatly in rows. Goodies were bagged for easy grabbing. But, it wasn’t black Friday, it was the third Holiday Care and Share food distribution sponsored by Devon Energy in Watonga, OK. It was a cold morning, but no one seemed to mind. Not the volunteers and not the families waiting patiently for their food.

Once the distribution began, families pulled their vehicles through a make-shift driveway and Devon volunteers loaded all of the food into their cars. The families received several bread, apples, potatoes, frozen turkeys and food boxes, which will supply 21 meals. Devon employees distributed more than 500 boxes to families in need in Watonga last Saturday and in Geary and Hinton before Thanksgiving.

The holidays are all about giving and this food drive was a wonderful example of the holiday spirit. It was a rewarding experience to be able to give food to families who truly need it. I know that it must have meant to so much to those families knowing that they didn’t have to worry about where the next meal was coming from. I’m hopeful that the food alleviated some of the stress that families deal with as they try to make Christmas special for their children.

I am thankful that I work for Devon, a company that truly believes in making a difference. I’m thankful for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and its willingness to expend the resources to serve more people every day. I’m thankful that my colleagues are always willing to volunteer to help those in their community.

Christina Rehkop

Supervisor, Community Affairs

Devon Energy Corporation

16

Dec

Get into the Holiday Spirit with Light Shows


My favorite part of the holidays is going to see Christmas lights.  They sparkle, they shine, and sometimes they even dance in coordination to my favorite holiday hits.  This year, I got a jump-start on my light seeing, and I want to share the top light shows:

  • A Downs Family Christmas, located at 2900 72nd Ave S.E. in Norman – Do you want to see more than 12.5 miles of lights light up the sky?  I know I do!  This is one of the best shows around!  The show runs every night from 6:00 PM until midnight until Jan. 2. *weather permitting   (http://www.downsfamilychristmas.com)
  • Markwell Avenue Christmas Lights, located at the 2100 block of N. Markwell Avenue.  This  must-see Christmas spectacular features 15 houses, 18 yards, and 11,000+ moving lights that are synchronized to 3 different songs.  The musical show will illuminate the night from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. (the light spectacular has extended hours until 11 p.m. Thursday-Sunday).   Enter from NW 23rd street, follow Graham to Markwell Ave, and then turn right at 20th street (at T). You can follow 20th to Eagle lane to exit. (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=191638843591#!/group.php?gid=191638843591)
  • Yukon’s Christmas in the Park, located at Chisholm Trail Park in Yukon – Drive more than 3 miles (100 acres) and see 300 light displays.  The light spectacular is open from 6 p.m. through 11 p.m. until December 31.  (http://wimgo.com/yukon-ok/christmas-in-the-park-yukon/events/194847)
  • Chickasha’s Festival of Lights, located at 2400 S 9th Street in Chickasha – If you want to see Santa or go on a carriage ride, this is the light show for you!   This spectacular light show is open nightly from 6-11 p.m. through December 31.  This light show is definitely worth the 45 minute drive!
  • Bricktown Lights, located in Bricktown – See some great holiday light displays from the water taxi!  In December, water taxi rides from 6-10 p.m. Thursday-Sunday are free!

All of the light shows are free; however, A Downs Family Christmas and Markwell Avenue lights are collecting donations for the Regional Food Bank (thanks!).
Grab a hot chocolate, some cookies, and hit the road!

Angie Gaines

Angie Gaines

Angie Gaines is the Marketing Manager at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. In 2005, she graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Public Relations.
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13

Dec

Meeting the Needs of Hungry Kids in Oklahoma


“When I passed out the sacks for the first time, one first grade boy asked if he would get the backpack again this year.  I told him yes.  He started to jump up and down and gave me a big hug.  I thought to myself, that is why we do this program.” –Atoka Elementary

As the childhood hunger programs coordinator at the Regional Food Bank, I coordinate the Food for Kids program and often read stories like this from coordinators in schools.  With 330 schools and over 8,000 students on the program, coordinating everything can be a lot of work, but I love that I get to spend my days helping chronically hungry children.

The Food for Kids program began in 2003 in five schools.  An Oklahoma City elementary school contacted the Food Bank after a child fainted while waiting in the lunch line at school.  After speaking to the child, the school staff found that the child had nothing to eat over the weekend besides a hotdog without a bun.  At that point, the Food Bank realized it had to do something to help feed chronically hungry children in the state.

The Food for Kids program was an answer to that problem.  The Food for Kids program is a partnership between the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and elementary schools.  The program provides non-perishable and kid friendly food to chronically hungry children over weekends and school holidays at no cost to the schools.  Both the Food Bank and the schools have a role to play in the program.  The Food Bank packages the food and distributes it to the schools, while the schools identify children who qualify for the program and hand out the food each week.  As a result of the Food for Kids program, many teachers have reported better school attendance, improved school performance, and better concentration in the classroom.

Since 2003, the program has grown exponentially, and we want to continue to grow.  We are currently sending food out to 330 schools in 43 central and western Oklahoma counties.  We expect to serve about 11,000 students this school year.  Although 11,000 children is a lot, one in five children in Oklahoma are at risk of hunger every day.  There is still a long way to go to help the children of Oklahoma.  The Food Bank’s goal is to offer the Food for Kids program in every elementary school in our 53-county service area.

If you want to get involved with the Food for Kid’s program, there are several things you can do:

  1. Donate – A donation of just $200 can provide a child with a backpack each week for an entire school year.  During December, every dollar is doubled through Chesapeake Energy’s Match, up to $250,000.
  2. Volunteer – The Food Bank relies on volunteers to help package the food we send out to the schools.  We would love to have you!
  3. Advocate – It’s really important for people to spread the word and let others know that chronic hunger is an issue for children in Oklahoma.

Thank you Letters from Children in the Food for Kids Backpack Program:


Whitney Wallace

Whitney Wallace

Whitney Wallace is the Childhood Hunger Programs Coordinator at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. In 2009, she graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota with degrees in American and Women’s Studies.
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09

Dec

A New Spin on Tacos


Life can get crazy during the holidays.  School programs, work events, holiday shopping, baking and social events with family and friends.  That is a lot to keep up with along with everyday life!

I am one of those folks that believe it is important to get everyone around the table for dinner, but this time of year it can be tough.  Luckily, years ago I purchased a cookbook put out by The Pampered Chef called “The Busy Mom’s Cookbook.”  It has some great and easy recipes where you can make a home cooked meal – in most instances – less than 30 minutes.  One of my kids’ favorites is the Taco Ring.  It is quite simple and the kids can help get it ready too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of crescent rolls
  • 1 lbs of lean ground beef (you can use ground turkey or ground chicken)
  • 1 package of taco seasoning
  • 8 oz of the shredded cheese of your choice (I use Monterey Jack & Colby)
  • ¼ cup of water

Directions:

  1. Turn oven onto 350°.
  2. Brown your meat on the stove, draining off any oil.  Add ¼ cup of water and the taco seasoning to the browned meat and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add the shredded cheese and mix into the meat and seasoning until melted.
  3. On a baking sheet or pizza stone, line up the crescent rolls and overlap the bottom part of the triangle ½ way.  Use a rolling pin or cup to roll over the crescent rolls where they overlap so the dough doesn’t separate.
  4. Next, scoop meat mixture onto the bottom third portion of each crescent roll.  Once this is done, pull the top part of the crescent roll over and touch the bottom part of the roll.  Press firmly. Fold back the top part of the crescent roll and let it lay on top.
  5. Bake in oven for 8 – 10 minutes, until crescent rolls are golden brown.
  6. Serve over a bed of lettuce with sides of salsa, sour cream or guacamole.

This recipe is easy, fast and yummy – a fun twist on tacos!  Something I do is put the crescent rolls on the pizza stone first – before I start browning the meat.  That way they get closer to room temperature and they bake up big and fluffy in the oven.

Just to let you know, The Pampered Chef has a great program called “Round-up From the Heart” where if you purchase any Pampered Chef items, or a special trivet, you can round your bill up to the next dollar and they will donate funds to your local Food Bank.  Since 1992, The Pampered Chef has invested more than $72,000 to help feed Oklahoma’s hungry through this program!  Check out their website, it is great.
Merry Christmas & Happy Cooking!

Melanie Anthony

Melanie Anthony

Melanie Anthony is a Development Manager at the Regional Food Bank. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate and mother of two.
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Chesapeake Energy Corporation is a long-time supporter of the Regional Food Bank; a position we don’t take lightly. As a company we host an annual donation drive and our employees spend countless hours packing boxes of food to benefit families across the state.

We so believe in the organization’s mission that this month we are matching all donations – dollar for dollar – up to $100,000.

If that’s not enough reason to give, below are my top motivations for supporting the Regional Food Bank:

  • Hunger is a Real Issue in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is the fifth hungriest state in the nation. More than one in five Oklahoma children struggle with hunger and more than 500,000 Oklahomans wonder where they will get their next meal. In addition to children, most of those going hungry are seniors and the working poor.
  • A Gift to the Regional Food Bank Has Maximum Impact. Each dollar given to the Food Bank provides 7 meals for hungry Oklahomans. What’s more, your donation will provide a life necessity to someone when he or she needs it most.
  • The Food Bank Has Statewide Reach. A donation to the Food Bank reaches across 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. Each week, the Food Bank and its partners feed 77,000 Oklahomans – nearly half of which are children.
  • The Organization is Fiscally Responsible. As a member of the Food Bank board, I am always proud to report that the organization has administrative costs below 4%. That means 96 cents of every dollar directly affects people in need.
  • It’s the Right Thing to Do. The holiday season is for counting your blessings and remembering those who have less. I hope you will join with Chesapeake in providing meals to those in need. Remember – every dollar you donate is doubled through December 31st, meaning you can help feed 14 Oklahomans with a single dollar donation.

To give, click here.

Martha Burger

Chesapeake Energy

Senior Vice President Corporate and Human Resources

03

Dec

On Behalf of Hungry Children, Hip Hip Hooray!


Yesterday, December 2, 2010, the House of Representatives passed The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307).  The bill now heads to the President, who is expected to sign it into law quickly.

The passage of this bill is a significant victory for hungry children.  It provides $4.5 billion in new funding over the next 10 years to improve children’s access to healthy meals—the largest investment in federal child nutrition programs since their inception!

The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act takes several steps forward to ensure that low-income children have the nutritious food they need to be healthy and successful, including:

  • Expanding the Afterschool Meal Program to all 50 states;
  • Supporting improvements to direct certification for school meals and other strategies to reduce red tape in helping children obtain school meals;
  • Allowing state Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) agencies the option to certify children for up to one year;
  • Mandating WIC electronic benefit transfer (EBT) implementation nationwide by October 1, 2020;
  • Improving area eligibility rules so more family child care homes can use the Child and Adult Care Food Program;
  • Enhancing the nutritional quality of food served in school-based and preschool settings; and
  • Making “competitive foods,” such as vending machine snacks, offered and sold in schools more nutritious.

Thank you for your phone calls and emails in support of this legislation!  You’ve made a difference in the lives of hungry children.

Ashley Stokes

Ashley Stokes

Ashley Stokes is the Advocacy & Public Policy Manager at the Regional Food Bank. She graduated from Oklahoma City University School of Law in 2009.
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02

Dec

A Day of Caring


Generally, the Volunteer Center is the hub of activity at the Regional Food Bank.  On any given day, you’ll walk in and see a swarm of people lifting heavy boxes, packing food and indirectly getting their workout for the day.  But for an outsider observing the melee, the experience can be overwhelming.  This happened to me when the Federal Aviation Administration and Municipal Employees of Oklahoma City volunteered for United Way’s Day of Caring.  They were here to volunteer their time and make an impact in the community.  I asked Jamie, our Volunteer Recruiter (and fellow AmeriCorps member) as well as Melanie, our Development Manager, to help introduce me to the two groups. I was able to speak to a few coordinators and poke their brains about how they feel about Day of Caring and volunteering at the Regional Food Bank.

I spoke to Ellen Mills, who helped coordinate this year’s event for her colleagues at the FAA.  For her, and the rest of the FAA employees, volunteering here is significant because of the impact the Regional Food Bank has in the local community.  As one volunteer put it, the need in Oklahoma is palpable when you simply look at the scope of operations at the Regional Food Bank.  You become more aware when you see what gets done at the Regional Food Bank every day.  This sentiment was echoed by the previous year’s coordinator, Erik Salazar, who became interested in volunteering here after going on a tour of the facilities and learning more about our programs – specifically our Food for Kids backpack program.

I also spoke to Pete, who came out with other city employees to volunteer as part of United Way’s Heart of the City campaign.  This group hadn’t volunteered at the Regional Food Bank before (even though many FAA employees had) but were amazed to see that the Food Bank is capable of doing so much to serve the greater need.  I left the volunteers, who were having a friendly competition to see who could pack the most boxes.  As I walked away to the sounds of chiming cowbells indicating the completion of another pallet, I couldn’t help but think how truly amazing it is to see people take a few hours out of their day to help the Regional Food Bank work towards a great cause.

Connie Lam

Connie Lam

Connie Lam is the Marketing Intern at the Regional Food Bank. She recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Advertising.
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