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49 Million Americans are Food Insecure - Includes 16.4 Percent of Oklahomans

Number Could Grow, Given Economic Outlook and Proposed Budget Cuts

September 8, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY - The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that 16.4 percent of Oklahoma residents are food insecure.  Overall, one in six Americans lives in a household that is food insecure.

One in seven people in Oklahoma will struggle with hunger today, which means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.  “The next several years will be challenging, to say the least. With current and pending state and federal budget cuts and a less than favorable economic forecast, the demand for food assistance is expected to continue to grow, especially in areas outside of the metro.”

Nationally, among the nearly 49 million Americans facing hunger in the U.S., 13 million are Latino, 10 million are African-American, more than 16 million are children, and five million households include at least one senior.  In Oklahoma, the number of children who struggle with hunger recently jumped from 18 percent of all children to 26 percent.

This new study from the USDA is from data collected in December 2010. The USDA also released a study  earlier this year, which found that provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) helped reduce food insecurity among people receiving benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), when compared to low-income households that are not eligible for SNAP benefits.

SNAP is the nation’s largest nutrition program, now serving more than 45 million low-income people.  Seventy nine percent of the households receiving SNAP include a child, elderly, or disabled person.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to act this month on legislation funding for several critical nutrition programs for Fiscal Year 2012. The House has already approved legislation that would significantly weaken the nutrition safety net.

  • More than 20 percent would be cut from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provide food and funds to food banks.
  • SNAP would be cut by nearly 20 percent.
  • Up to 350,000 women, infants, and children would lose benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
  • Nearly 150,000 low-income seniors would lose benefits from the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP).

Last spring, Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity, conducted a research study to reveal food insecurity rates at the county level. Map the Meal Gap showed that hunger exists in every county in Oklahoma, ranging from 21 percent in Roger Mills County to 25 percent in Hughes County.

“The pervasiveness of hunger requires a strong partnership between federal nutrition programs and the charitable distribution system to feed people in need,” said Vicki Escarra, chief executive officer of Feeding America. “While our nation faces many serious challenges today, the costs of children growing up hungry and seniors spending a lifetime working hard and retiring hungry are great.  Hunger is simply one battle we cannot afford to lose.”

Oklahoma is the fifth hungriest state in the nation.  The Regional Food Bank provides enough food to help feed more than 90,000 people each week.  The majority of those served by the nonprofit are children, seniors living on fixed incomes, and working families who cannot make ends meet. 

Learn more about the faces of hunger: read real stories from seniors and families in Oklahoma by visiting regionalfoodbank.org.

“With the help of the community, and through our partnerships with charitable feeding programs and schools, we will continue to work toward meeting the demand for food well into the future,” said Bivens. 

Governor Mary Fallin has proclaimed September as Hunger Action Month in Oklahoma. Join the fight against hunger by making a gift to the Regional Food Bank or by volunteering today.  For more information call 405.972.1111 or visit regionalfoodbank.org.  Connect online with the Regional Food Bank at twitter.com/rfbo or facebook.com/regionalfoodbank.

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 475 million pounds of food to feed Oklahoma’s hungry. Visit regionalfoodbank.org to learn more.

About Feeding America

Feeding America provides low-income individuals and families with the fuel to survive and even thrive. As the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity, our network members supply food to more than 37 million Americans each year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors. Serving the entire United States, more than 200 member food banks support 61,000 agencies that address hunger in all of its forms. For more information on how you can fight hunger in your community and across the country, visit http://www.feedingamerica.org. Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/FeedingAmerica or follow our news on Twitter at twitter.com/FeedingAmerica.

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