(OKLAHOMA CITY) – June 19, 2018 – Last June, the Oklahoma Food Banks and the Conservation Partnership joined together to fight hunger while conserving natural resources. Through Farm to Food Bank, a pilot project that implements practices that increase the health of soil, Oklahoma farmers volunteered to plant and donate up to eight acres of cover crops to the Oklahoma Food Banks. Over the last year, nearly 7,000 pounds of fresh produce were harvested, providing 5,812 meals to chronically hungry children, seniors on fixed incomes and families working to put food on the table.
“For many of our Oklahoma neighbors, eating healthy is not about not knowing what foods to choose; it is often about not being able to afford or not having access to more healthful choices,” said Katie Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of the Regional Food Bank. “That’s why the Farm to Food Bank program is so important. We want to thank our partners and celebrate this relationship, which will continue to provide nutritious food to our neighbors who need it the most.”
Cover crops, like squash and okra, are staples in a healthy diet. The Oklahoma Food Banks, which consists of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, place a priority on increasing the volume of fresh fruits and vegetables distributed statewide. Last year alone, the Regional Food Bank distributed more than 12.7 million pounds of produce to clients, representing 24 percent of the nonprofit’s total distribution. That number is expected to grow this year.
Twelve farms participate in the Farm to Food Bank Program: Oscar & Bergundy Nelson in Chickasha, Brett Peshek in Apache, Sally Hulling in Turpin, Jimmy Emmons in Leedey, Shane O’Daniel, John Flaming, Brad Perkins and Nathan Miller all of Custer County, Trey Lam of Paul’s Valley, and Abbie Ashley of Garfield County. Donations benefit the following Regional Food Bank community-based partners: HELP of Elk City, the Weatherford Food & Resource Center; Moore Food & Resource Center, Resurrection House in Chickasha and Vici Senior Center.
One in six Oklahomans has inconsistent access to healthy food, which can lead to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases. As a result, Oklahoma ranks among the 10 worst states for many key health indicators, including cardiovascular and diabetes deaths.
“Fresh produce is one of our most needed donations, and can also be one of the hardest donations for us to source,” said Fitzgerald. “The Farm to Food Bank pilot project will help the Oklahoma Food Banks in continuing to provide healthy, fresh food options for our clients.”
Farm to Food Bank is made possible through a partnership among the United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS)*, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. The seed for the project was donated by Green Cover Seed and Ross Seed.
The Conservation Partnership views this partnership as a revitalization of the stewardship ethic of natural resource conservation; that belief of taking care of the soil, water and air. This is more than about just feeding the soil or people.
“Soil health is based on feeding the community of organisms below the ground, just as the Oklahoma Food Banks are feeding the communities here in Oklahoma,” said Trey Lam, executive director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. “It seems a natural fit to partner with the Oklahoma Food Banks; we can do more when we work together.”
Last fiscal year, the Regional Food Bank and Community Food Bank distributed more than 73.1 million pounds of food and products through a network of more than 1,700 charitable feeding programs and schools across Oklahoma.
Join the nonprofit in making it a hunger-free summer for seniors, families and children. Every dollar donated to the Regional Food Bank will provide the equivalent of four meals for Oklahomans living with hunger. Donate online at regionalfoodbank.org or call 405-600-3136.
About the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is the state’s largest hunger-relief organization and a member of Feeding America’s network of Food Banks. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit provides enough food to feed more than 136,000 hungry Oklahomans each week through a network of more than 1,300 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 613 million pounds of food to feed Oklahomans living with hunger. 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 the Oklahoma Conservation Commission
Established in 1937 during the Dust Bowl, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission is a non-regulatory agency working with 84 local conservation districts, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to educate and assist the public in implementing voluntary conservation practices on their land. We strive to conserve and protect natural resources for the continuity of the land, heritage and future of all Oklahomans.
About the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts
The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts is a nonprofit organization representing Oklahoma's 85 conservation districts to provide leadership, resources and partnership opportunities for those who manage the land to enhance our natural resources for a better Oklahoma. For more information, visit www.okconservation.org.