It Takes More Than Food to Fight Hunger

Oklahoma Food Banks and Advocates Addressed Hunger with Legislators

(OKLAHOMA CITY) – Feb. 20, 2018 – As part of Hunger Action Day on Feb. 14, nearly 80 hunger advocates from across Oklahoma spoke with state legislators about the issue of hunger and asked them to support policies that address the many factors that contribute to food insecurity. 

“Hunger is a non-partisan issue,” said Katie Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. “As advocates for hunger relief, it is important we raise the awareness of our elected officials because decisions made at the Oklahoma Capitol directly impact every person in our state. More than 632,000 Oklahomans experience food insecurity, and the idea that hunger only affects a few people could not be further from the truth.”

Hunger Action Day was organized by the Oklahoma Food Banks, which consist of the Regional Food Bank in Oklahoma City and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma in Tulsa. Senate Bill 1104: “Lunch Shaming” was the topic of discussion.

More than 425,000 children in Oklahoma received free or reduced price school meals last year, but many more are either not eligible or not enrolled in the program.

“These children are particularly vulnerable to a practice known as ‘lunch shaming,’” said Effie Craven, public policy and advocacy director for the Oklahoma Food Banks. “For example, some students have their hands stamped or receive a cheese sandwich and water if they have school meal debt, or have gone through the lunch line only to reach the cashier at the end and have their meal thrown away because they owed money. We believe no child should be denied a meal because of ability to pay.”

The federal child nutrition programs are the single most important source of nutrition support for Oklahoma’s children, and making sure school meals are available to as many students as possible will help address the dual issues of lunch shaming and unpaid school meal debt.

SB 1104: “Lunch Shaming” is authored by Sen. A.J. Griffin. The bill passed unanimously in committee vote on Feb. 19 and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

Some examples of provisions in SB 1104 include requiring schools to:

  • Provide a meal application in every enrollment packet
  • Direct all communications about student meal accounts to parents or guardians rather than students

And prohibiting schools from:

  • Requiring students to throw away a meal after it has been served due to an inability to pay
  • Publicly identifying or stigmatizing students who cannot pay for a meal
  • Requiring students to do chores in lieu of payment
  • Denying students from participating in activities due to meal debt
  • Taking disciplinary action against a student that results in delaying or denying a meal available to other students

“We want to thank all of our advocates and legislators who have joined the fight against hunger in the state,” Craven said. “It takes more than food to fight hunger – we need to work with our elected officials to ensure every child has access to nutritious food and stop lunch shaming.”

Oklahoma is the sixth hungriest state in the nation. Statewide, the Oklahoma Food Banks are the largest hunger-relief organizations in the state and distribute 1.2 million meals every week. Yet, it is not enough. That’s why support from the community and the legislature is so important to ending hunger in Oklahoma.

Together, we can solve hunger. For more information about the Regional Food Bank, or how to become an advocate, visit regionalfoodbank.org or contact Effie Craven at ecraven@regionalfoodbank.org or 405-600-3129.

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.

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