Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: January 30, 2008
Sen. Andrew Rice
Oklahoma Among Nation’s Hungriest States; Task Force
Issues Solution Roadmap
Common-sense measures to strengthen
families and better utilize existing nutrition programs are among
strategies to address hunger in Oklahoma identified by the Oklahoma
Task Force on Hunger in its final report delivered today to the
Governor and leaders from the Senate and the House.
The report includes recommendations for increased coordination among
services organizations and ways to extend existing outreach to serve
more people. The report also includes strategies to involve schools
and improve students' access to sufficient and nutritious food.
State Senator Andrew
Rice (D-OKC), who, along with State Representative Kris Steele
(R-Shawnee) authored legislation creating the task force last year,
said the final report confirms the urgency of the state’s
The Task Force reports that “Oklahoma is one of the hungriest
states in America”.
“Over the past ten years, the percentage of our population
classified by the United States Department of Agriculture as “food
insecure” has risen from 13.1 percent to 14.6 percent,”
the report states. “The percentage of our population experiencing
hunger, classified as those experiencing “very low food security,”
has risen from 4.2 percent to 5.3 percent. On both measures Oklahoma
ranks as one of the five worst states in the country.”
The classification “food insecure”, refers to families
and individuals who do not receive enough daily nutrition to meet
minimal medical benchmarks.
Rice said if half a million Oklahomans are going to bed hungry
every night, then answers must be found. He said it is an issue
that could not be ignored any longer.
“We have the capacity to address this moral issue head-on
and find workable solutions to hunger,” Rice said. “Across
Oklahoma, families are being forced to choose between food or rent,
food or mortgage payments, food or utilities, and food or medicine.
This is not right. We can not afford to leave any of our citizens
Steele said hunger and malnutrition reduces the ability of adults
to work, and most importantly, erodes children’s ability to
learn and lead healthy lives.
“It is especially imperative to address hunger issues facing
Oklahoma children,” Steele said. “It has a damaging
effect on the mental and physical development of children, as they
are hampered in school and often develop some form of disability
because they are not getting the critical nutrition they need.”
In its roadmap for policymakers, agency officials, and representatives
of the charitable community to address Oklahoma's growing hunger
problem, the Task Force made the following four primary recommendations:
Increase Participation in Underutilized Federal Food Programs:
Many of our existing nutrition programs are under-utilized in Oklahoma,
but participation in these programs can be increased through efficient
and cost-effective initiatives;
Increase the Capacity of the Private Charitable Emergency Food Networks:
Oklahoma's private charitable emergency food network provides effective
assistance to those in need and should be strengthened;
Increase Family Economic Stability: Through improvements to existing
programs, particularly those involving tax credits, Oklahoma could
improve the family economic security of its low-income citizens;
Strengthen Community Food Security: Oklahoma has the resources to
enhance community food security, the ability to grow and produce
nutritious food for those in need, and we should take steps to build
upon those resources.
Nancy Eggen, with Bread for the World and Chair of the Oklahoma
Hunger Task Force said Oklahoma has taken important first steps
toward addressing food insecurity.
“As we move forward with the implementation of the report’s
recommendations, I invite all Oklahomans to work with us and proclaim,
‘Hunger is not OK’,” Eggan said.
She said the 15-member task force also plans to recommend the creation
of a food security council as way to improve the food security of
individuals and communities through continued collaborative efforts.
The goal of the proposed legislation is to reduce food insecurity
in Oklahoma to at or below the national average by 2013.
The initial task for the council would be to identify, by county,
existing gaps in services such as grocery stores, food banks and
other food outlets, in order to set specific benchmarks for progress
in participation, food availability and outreach.
Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank of
Oklahoma and vice-chair of the Hunger Task Force said the inter-agency
collaboration and partnership that began with the Oklahoma Task
Force on Hunger should continue through the food security council.
“This is a great opportunity for the state of Oklahoma to
collaborate and form partnerships with public and private agencies
to continue to find long term solutions to reduce hunger in our
state – especially during these trying economic times.”
A copy of the complete report from the Task Force is available
online at: www.hungerinoklahoma.org.
For more information contact:
Senator Rice's Office: (405) 521-5610