The virtual town hall will focus on food insecurity’s rapid growth during COVID-19 and the response to combat hunger in Oklahoma. Since the pandemic started, it is projected that Oklahoma has dropped from one in six Oklahomans facing food insecurity to one in five. Before COVID-19, one in four Oklahoma children was food insecure. Now, nearly one in three children may be facing hunger.
Joining Congresswoman Horn as panelists are:
- Ryan Abernathy, Senior Director on Childhood Hunger, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
- Daniel Matthews, Director of the Community Market of Pottawatomie County
- Councilwoman Nikki Nice, Ward 7 – Oklahoma City
- Tiffany Briggs, School Counselor
“During this crisis, too many Oklahomans families are struggling to put food on the table through no fault of their own,” said Congresswoman Horn. “Thousands of Oklahomans have lost their jobs, many workers are still waiting for their unemployment checks, and countless families are at the end of their rope. I am grateful for the work of Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the organizations across our state working day in and day out to make sure that no one falls through the cracks during this crisis. Our virtual town hall will gather food insecurity experts for a conversation on what we can do at the local and federal level to end hunger in Oklahoma, and where people can get the assistance they need.”
“We appreciate Congresswoman Horn helping us to shine a light on the issue of food insecurity in our state,” said Deb Bunting, interim CEO of the Regional Food Bank. “Oklahoma is already the fifth hungriest state in the nation and then you add the economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic and the slumping oil industry and the result is we’re seeing more and more Oklahomans in need of food assistance.”
In April, Congresswoman Kendra Horn (OK-5) introduced the bipartisan CARE for Kids Act, legislation that would extend automatic eligibility for free school meals to certain vulnerable groups of children. Under the bill, children living in alternative or informal care arrangements, including those living with relatives such as grandparents would be eligible for free school meals.
While the stimulus legislation which Congress passed in March temporarily expands free school meal eligibility to all children for the remainder of the COVID-19 health crisis, the ensuing economic downturn is expected to plunge an estimated 10 million Americans into poverty, exacerbating hunger and food instability. In Oklahoma, expanded free school meal eligibility will run out on June 30 or when the federally declared public health emergency expires. The CARE for Kids Act would expand free school meal eligibility following the expiration of COVID-19 programs.