Food security, according to the USDA, means having access to the food and nutrition you need to support an active and healthy lifestyle. In 2019, in Oklahoma, one in five children were food insecure.
In 2020, it’s one in four Oklahoma children who can’t count on the food and nutrition they need to grow and to learn. And children aren’t the only ones suffering.
According to Janice Hermann, an OSU Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist, “There are more than 656,000 Oklahomans struggling with food insecurity every day.”
This isn’t just a tragedy; it’s a moral failure.
Gov. Stitt, we will never be a Top 10 state when a good 20% of our citizens aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from.
Why aren’t we demanding that our legislators address this problem? Why isn’t this hunger crisis a priority?
Maybe part of the problem is our misconceptions about hungry households. Despite the picture that President Reagan tried to paint of deadbeats and Cadillac-driving welfare scammers, here is the truth: 67% of SNAP recipients are children, disabled, or elderly. The remaining third are mostly low-wage workers. And that’s just counting those who have applied for and received help from the state. Many more fall through the cracks.
And this doesn’t even begin to address the havoc that Covid-19 has played on our economy!
There are short-term solutions. We can hold food drives. The state can coordinate with farmers whose produce isn’t reaching the market. Stores can donate items that are approaching their sell-by date.
The best short-term fix is our tax dollars used to provide relief to those out of work, hungry, and facing eviction. Congress needs to pass a relief bill now, but short-term solutions aren’t enough.
Sara Lazarovic, in an article about food waste and hunger in Yes! Magazine, wrote, “We’re not going to end hunger by giving people old sandwiches. We’ll solve hunger by ending poverty.”
When we’ve crossed this Covid mountain, we need long-term solutions – a living wage for every worker, education and training that provides the tools one needs to get a good job, access to healthcare to foster entrepreneurship, and a tax system that asks the wealthy to pay their fair share.
Until we get there, those of us with plenty to eat need to step up, donate, and hold our representatives accountable. And not just through this season of giving! Hunger doesn’t end when the Christmas trees come down.