2019 Efforts to End Hunger in Oklahoma: The Highlights
by Chris Bernard, Executive Director
January 22, 2020
The well-known African Proverb says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” In the past year, across Oklahoma we have seen this proverb in action to address food insecurity. Oklahoma’s non-profit organizations, tribal nations, government stakeholders, community leaders, and others are choosing to take the harder challenge of traveling together with intentionality rather than going it alone, and our state is better for it. The efforts are too numerous to name in full, but just a few highlights show the breadth and depth of the change that so many are working to bring about in Oklahoma:
- The Oklahoma Childhood Food Security Coalition, the community focused on expanding summer meals, and their partners increased the number of sites offering meals and the number of meals served by over 100,000. This effort rebranded summer meals, launched a statewide marketing effort, coordinated resources, and strengthened collaborations to make it happen.
- Hunger Free Oklahoma is building a community, known as the Tulsa Community Partners Program, in the Tulsa Area United Way service area to increase SNAP participation resulting in 98 new individuals accessing SNAP in the first few months of onboarding and 17 organizations (and growing) signing on to the mission. This community works to connect existing and new clients to SNAP as part of their intake and screening process.
- The education community continued to strengthen its commitment to ensuring children have access to three meals a day year-round through strengthening their SNAP in Schools work, increasing Afterschool Meals participation, and in some cases, starting to offer Afterschool Meals, and 19 new districts offering to pilot breakfast after the bell models.
- The Oklahoma State WIC Department and their community partners worked to increase access by offering online appointment scheduling. This effort helps to ensure new mothers and young children have access to specialized nutrition.
- The social service and immigrant service communities rallied around our immigrant neighbors. Community partners participated in a collaborative training to understand and talk to clients about Public Charge rules and the impact or lack of impact on client families.
- The anti-hunger community continues to be active federally and at the state level to protect and strengthen crucial nutrition programs, including advocating for a Child Nutrition Reauthorization that includes flexibility for communities that struggle with transportation and congregate feeding.
- Our state government community of departments has continued to increase public private partnerships building a larger body of partners working together to address hunger and poverty.
- Finally all of these communities came together to share their expertise, work across sectors, and find innovative ideas to better serve our most vulnerable citizens at the first annual Hungry for Change Conference, a statewide anti-hunger conference. The Conference hosted 152 individuals from 61 organizations working to make a hunger free Oklahoma.
Building community can take many forms, from grass roots to grass tops, from community gardens to statewide systemic changes. But the shared characteristic amongst any community building is finding commonalities and shared goals. As each of these communities grows stronger, the connections between them will grow in strength and number. Ultimately, these bonds and connections within and between communities will create the sustainable systemic change needed to end hunger in Oklahoma.
2019 was a year of many different communities making strides together towards ensuring that Oklahoma’s most vulnerable, the working poor, and those in crisis had enough nutritious food every day. All of us at Hunger Free Oklahoma are honored to be a part of these efforts and grateful to our partners who give with endless generosity their time, expertise, and resources to achieve our shared goal.
We look forward to a new year of partnership, collaboration, and increased impact.
We look forward to going far, by going together.