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Oklahomans Benefit from Wide-Spread Fight Against Hunger as U.S. Congress Targets Nutrition Program

April 20, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma’s city, state and legislative leaders and lawmakers are rallying together on Monday, April 23rd at 10 a.m. to support HR1051, the Hold Out for Hunger resolution. While Oklahoma tops USDA’s list as the hungriest state in the nation, federal lawmakers are debating cuts to nutrition programs that will affect the food banks in Oklahoma. 

 Hold Out for Hunger has been crafted and filed by Oklahoma City area representatives Scott Inman and Emily Virgin and Tulsa representatives Seneca Scott and Eric Proctor and now enjoys the support from Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Governor Mary Fallin. HR10151, Hold Out for Hunger will be recognized by the state legislature in an effort to illustrate the severity of hunger, as more than 620,000 Oklahomans struggle with hunger every day.

 “As long as one in four children are going to bed hungry every night in Oklahoma, combating hunger should remain a priority for all of us. That’s why I launched an annual effort, the ‘Feeding Oklahoma Food Drive,’ which has now raised over 2.5 million meals for the hungry, thanks to donations from Oklahoma families and businesses. It’s also why I am proud to support the “Hold Out for Hunger Resolution.” With the help of our generous citizens, our lawmakers, the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, I believe we can successfully combat hunger and improve countless lives.” – Governor Mary Fallin

  “During the holiday season we called on Tulsans to help fight hunger and we’re continuing with this mission. The Hold Out for Hunger Resolution is imperative, especially with the school season winding down and a high percentage of our school children on the free lunch program. I urge the Tulsa community to stay involved and to help fight hunger as the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma can turn $1 into seven meals for a person in need.” – Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett

“We measure our success not only by those that are doing well during Oklahoma City’s remarkable renaissance, but also by our willingness to extend a helping hand to those who are not. We enthusiastically support HR1051, the ‘Hold Out for Hunger’ resolution, as an effort to remind us that even in times of prosperity, there are Oklahomans who are struggling.” –  Mayor Mick Cornett.

 Along with the support from Oklahoma’s elected leaders, Executive Director Eileen Bradshaw of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and Executive Director Rodney Bivens of Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City will be recognized during the reading of HR1051. Governor Fallin has also proclaimed Monday, April 23rd as Hold Out for Hunger Day.

 “We are so grateful for the leadership of Mayors Dewey Bartlett and Mick Cornett along Governor Mary Fallin and the four state legislators for recognizing the working poor and those struggling with hunger in our communities,” said Eileen Bradshaw, executive director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. “This is an important time in our public policy debate and we are pleased we have such broad support from our elected officials at all levels and in both parties.”

“We are thankful for the support from the government leaders in Oklahoma, and the community, in the fight against hunger,” said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.  “We mostly serve the sunrise and sunset of life, and, without the support from Oklahomans, we simply could not serve those in need. Thank you for your compassion in these times of financial hardship.”

The Agriculture Committee’s proposal earlier this week would affect 22 million low-income households nation-wide and compromise their basic well-being. Based on this proposal, every SNAP household would have their benefits cut, and nearly 2 million Americans would be removed entirely from the SNAP program. Working families and seniors would be hit disproportionately. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 280,000 children would lose free school meals because their families receive SNAP benefits.

In Oklahoma last year, 620,791 Oklahomans state-wide received benefits through the SNAP program, which was the highest number of unduplicated cases in our state’s history. Seventy-six percent of these households included a child, senior or disabled person. 

Cutting SNAP would also harm the economic recovery and exacerbate unemployment. Economists across the political spectrum agree that SNAP is one of the biggest “bang for the buck” policies for providing stimulus to the economy. This proposal would remove nearly $8 billion from the national economy in the last quarter of this year and all of 2013. Over a two-year period from July 2009 through March 2011, SNAP benefits contributed $1.2 billion to Oklahoma’s economy, including 506 million dollars to Walmart stores alone. 

Still reeling from the recession the past several years, more than 616,000 Oklahomans in 2010 were listed as food insecure. In Oklahoma more than 16 percent of our fellow Oklahomans do not know where their next meal will come and one in four Oklahoma children struggles with hunger.

The “recovery” has proven to be especially challenging for the working poor. Wages are static in most service and general trade positions, but gas and grocery prices are not. Many Oklahomans are still without work and many that are working are earning less than they did five years ago. In 2010, 17 percent of the population fell below the state’s poverty line, according to the American Community Survey (ACS) from the U.S. Census Department.

SNAP is one of the only remaining basic protections for the very poor. For many of the poorest Americans, SNAP is the only form of income assistance they receive. SNAP is a powerful anti-poverty program and lifted over 5 million Americans above the poverty line in 2010, including 2.2 million children, according to the Census Bureau’s supplemental Poverty Measure.

The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, through a partner network of more than 1,250 programs and schools, continue to strive to meet increasing demands for emergency food assistance. Each week more than 160,000 Oklahomans receive food from both food banks in the state.

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is a private, 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that acts as a link through which the food industry and community may donate food and other goods. The products are then distributed to nearly 825 schools and charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. In fiscal year 2011, the Food Bank distributed 46.2 million pounds of food and product to help the charitable community effectively feed people in need. Since its inception in 1980, the Food Bank has distributed more than 434 million pounds of food to feed Oklahoma’s hungry.

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