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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

For Immediate Release: February 8, 2007

Senator Andrew Rice
Senator Andrew Rice

Bill Advanced to Create the Oklahoma Task Force on Hunger

Oklahoma can no longer afford to ignore the growing crisis of hunger within its borders according to State Senate Andrew Rice, author of SB 499, which would create the Oklahoma Taskforce on Hunger.

“We can’t ignore this problem any longer. We rank near the bottom five in the country for hunger,” said Rice, D-Oklahoma City. “I don’t think the general public realizes what a hunger problem we have - and I would put myself in that group until recently. For instance, we have an issue in Oklahoma known as “food insecure” which means there are people that get three meals a day, but they’re not nutritious or filling and therefore not meeting the medical benchmarks of being sufficient. This needs to be addressed.”

According to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, half a million Oklahomans are at risk of going to bed hungry, including one in five children, and the numbers are increasing at a disturbing rate.

“Most of these people have jobs, but simply don’t make enough to pay all the bills so they are often forced to choose between buying food or paying utilities and other bills,” said Rice.

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma noted that 42 percent must choose between utilities or food; 33 percent must choose to pay rent or mortgage or buy food; 33 percent must choose to buy medicine or food; 41 percent of clients report that one or more household members are in poor health; and 55 percent of clients have unpaid medical or hospital bills.

Rice explained that hunger can have serious consequences down the line for young children.

“It has a detrimental effect on children’s developmental processes. They’re not able to learn well in schools. They often develop learning disabilities and other developmental disabilities because they’re not, in those really key years from birth to six or seven years old, given the nutrition they need,” said Rice. “So it’s imperative that we find a solution, not only for our older citizens but for our youth and their futures.”

The taskforce will consist of 15 members including the Secretary of Health, the Department of Human Services Director, the Commissioner of Health, the Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Director of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The remaining members will be appointed by the Governor, President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House and will be from such organizations as the Regional Food Bank and other private entities.

“What we want to do is to try to get a lot of the different players, both private & public, who are already working with this issue together in a taskforce to share what works, what doesn’t, what needs to be done, where they can join forces, where they can save money, and where they can be more efficient,” said Rice.

A report of findings and recommendations must be submitted by December 31, 2007.

For more information contact:
Senator Rice's Office - (405) 521-5610

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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