As Oklahoma Food Insecurities Continue, So Does the Work to Combat the Problem

July 21, 2021

Oklahoma City, Okla. (KOKH) — It's no secret that food insecurity has gotten worse in Oklahoma during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Oklahoma ranks as the 5th hungriest state in the nation," said Bailey Perkins of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

It's a crushing landscape for the state - almost one in six Oklahomans don't know where their next meal is coming from and the statistics are even worse for children.

"One in four children in our state go hungry and we have concern about that because not only did those statistics exist prior to the pandemic, but they'll still continue because of the impact of COVID," said Perkins.

The state has seen some improvement. Federal assistance has helped, new grocery stores are coming to food insecure areas, and food banks and other feeding programs are stepping up their efforts.

However, there's still thousands of families who fall through the cracks.

"Feeding hungry children and hungry families in Oklahoma is not a partisan issue, it's a healthcare issue, it's a basic right to life issue," said Oklahoma Representative Ajay Pittman.

Pittman is one of many who has been taking action to create more access.

Last year, she worked with DHS to allow SNAP benefits to be used online, now she's laying the groundwork to let those benefits be used at farmer's markets.

"We wanted people to be able to go to their farmer's markets, be able to get healthy produce, support a local or small businesses, and be able to use their snap benefits," said Pittman.

Hunger Free Oklahoma is piloting a new dollar for dollar matching program which could also be a big game changer - it's called Double Up Oklahoma.

"For every dollar they spend in SNAP purchases, they can get a dollar that they can spend on fresh fruits or vegetables up to $20 a day," said Jessica Dietrich of Hunger Free Oklahoma. "From the first ten weeks of that grocery store alone, there was an additional almost $29,000 in fresh produce purchases through this program alone."

It's a promising sign for the state that while the state's hunger crisis continues, so does the work to combat it.

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