LARGEST, MOST COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS OF CHARITABLE FOOD ASSISTANCE IN OKLAHOMA

REPORTS 110,000 OKLAHOMANS SERVED WEEKLY BY REGIONAL FOOD BANK

OKLAHOMA CITY – March 18, 2015 – A recent study by the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and Feeding America shows that one in six, or an estimated 656,000, Oklahomans turn to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families.

“The results of this study show us that the face of hunger may be closer than we think,” said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank.  “Many of our neighbors seeking food assistance have jobs, raise families and want to stand on their own two feet, just like the rest of us. Too often, they are forced to make difficult decisions in order to keep food on the table.”

The report, which can be found at regionalfoodbank.org, documents household demographics and offers a snapshot of the people served by the Regional Food Bank and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, the “Oklahoma Food Banks,” and their partner agencies. The report identifies some of the health outcomes surrounding hunger and the challenges many face while living at or below the federal poverty level.

Key statistics from the report:

LOW WAGES, UNDEREMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT MAY DRIVE NEED FOR FOOD ASSISTANCE

  • Oklahoma has the fourth highest share of low paying jobs in the U.S.
  • 48 percent of all households served by the Oklahoma Food Banks have at least one person employed.
  • 27 percent of all households served have at least one person with a post high school education.
  • 67 percent client households have incomes that fall at or below the federal poverty level*.

MAKING TOUGH CHOICES AND TRADE-OFFS TO KEEP FOOD ON THE TABLE

Client households reported making the following choices in the past 12 months: 

  • 83 percent reported using three or more coping strategies in the past year:
    • Purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food.
    • Eating food past expiration date.
    • Watering down food or drinks to make them go further.
    • Selling or pawning personal property.
    • Turning to friends or family for help.
    • Growing food in a home or community garden.
  • 72 percent had to choose between food and utilities.
  • 68 percent had to choose between food and transportation.
  • 66 percent had to choose between food and medicine/medical care.
  • 56 percent had to choose between food and housing.
    • One in six experienced a foreclosure or eviction in the past five years.
  • 27 percent had to choose between food and education.

CLIENTS STRUGGLING WITH HEALTH ISSUES

  • 83 percent of client households report purchasing the cheapest food available, even if they knew it wasn’t the healthiest option, in an effort to provide enough food for their household.
  • 63 percent have medical bills to pay.
  • Over half of client households have a member with high blood pressure.
  • 33 percent of client households have a member(s) with diabetes.
  • 32 percent lack health insurance of any kind.
  • 24 percent have a household member in poor health.

OKLAHOMA FOOD BANK’S AGENCIES AND PROGRAMS

  • 61 percent of the food distributed by partner agencies comes from Oklahoma Food Banks.
  • 60 percent of agencies saw an increase in volume of clients compared to the previous year.
  • Half of all partner agencies, including soup kitchens and food pantries, are operated solely by volunteers.
  • A majority of partner agencies are faith-based or located in a religious institution.
  • 18 percent of partner agencies turned away clients “frequently” or “occasionally” during the last 12 months because they ran out of food.

“My husband is working and I'm still looking,” shared a client.  “We've had to stretch every dollar he makes to keep the bills paid and have gas to get to work.  It's been hard to find extra money for food.”

The Oklahoma Food Banks are the largest private hunger-relief organizations in the state.  Food Banks are the single most important source of food for Oklahoma's hunger relief agencies and the people they serve.

Together, we can solve hunger. The majority of those served by the Regional Food Bank are the working poor, children and seniors living on fixed incomes. Through April 30, 2015, the Charles and Cassandra Bowen Charitable Foundation and the Anderson Charitable Foundation have teamed up to match donations to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to fight senior hunger – up to $130,000.  To make a donation, visit regionalfoodbank.org or call 405.600.3136.

Hunger in America 2014 was conducted using rigorous academic research standards and was peer reviewed by a technical advisory team, including researchers from American University, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the Urban Institute. Nationally, confidential responses were collected on electronic tablets by 6,000 trained volunteer data collectors. The study was funded by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

About the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is the state’s largest private hunger relief organization.  The nonprofit provides enough food to feed more than 110,000 hungry Oklahomans each week through a network of nearly 1,200 schools and charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. Since its inception in 1980, the Regional Food Bank has distributed more than 550 million pounds of food to feed Oklahoma’s hungry.  For more information, visit http://www.regionalfoodbank.org; find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/regionalfoodbank or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rfbo.

About Feeding America
Feeding America is a nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to people through food pantries and meal programs in communities throughout America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate.  Together we can solve hunger. Visit http://www.feedingamerica.org/. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FeedingAmerica or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FeedingAmerica

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