Charities, churches shouldn’t fight hunger alone

As Hunger Action Month comes into its final stages, Oklahoman charities and churches prove to be more active in the fight against hunger than their government is. This is a tragedy.
With one in six Oklahomans facing food insecurity, recognizing September as Hunger Action Month is paramount. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell our legislature that.
Food insecurity is living with the fear that you may not eat your next meal, or that the food you eat for dinner won’t be healthy, fulfilling or worth much of anything. Across the US, over 15 million households were food insecure in 2016. For too long, these struggling people have been overlooked by the general public. After all, over 80 percent of American families are food secure. So when initiatives like Hunger Action Month are started, this is of prime importance to meet the needs of vulnerable families and to raise awareness about food insecurity in America.
In Tulsa, food insecurity is largely caused by “food deserts,” or the lack of stores in an area that sell food. Food deserts aren’t necessarily because people aren’t working or don’t have money. Sometimes, there is literally nowhere for them to buy the food they need. Poverty and unstable employment or unemployment do, of course, play into food insecurity but much of the crisis within Tulsa comes back to logistics.
Tulsa’s public transportation system is not equipped to take residents from their neighborhoods to other neighborhoods with adequate grocery stores. Retail stores don’t want to come into neighborhoods they aren’t sure will be profitable. Politicians like Tulsa City Councillor Vanessa Hall-Harper continually shut down plans to bring in Family Dollar stores despite the economic development those stores can spark. It isn’t just Tulsa that’s facing these issues. The Oklahoma Policy Institute identifies 32 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties as having food desert conditions. When nearly half of Oklahoma is facing something this important and this underreported, the issue goes from concerning to crisis very quickly.
All of this makes Hunger Action Month so much more important, especially in our state. And Oklahoma charities have truly stepped up to the plate, empty though it may be. The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and numerous churches across the state have truly organized during this month to help close the gap between food security and insecurity.
With food drives and fundraising events initiated by Oklahoma’s charities spanning the month of September and even into October, no one can say that Oklahoma does not help its poorest citizens. After an exhaustive search, including a frankly too in-depth Facebook search yielded no results, though, the same can’t be said about Oklahoma’s elected officials.
No one has made any public remarks or introduced any new initiatives to help combat food insecurity in the state. The closest we’ve come is former Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor, who sits as the honorary chair of the Take a Seat event sponsored by the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. Even then, she only implores business leaders to participate in the Hunger Action Month.
Yes, business leaders, church leaders, nonprofit organizers and normal people who work 9-to-5 jobs all ought to participate in events that support Hunger Action Month and try to combat food insecurity in Oklahoma.
However, we cannot excuse our congressional leaders or other governmental officials. Mayors, city councillors, state representations, Oklahoma’s national congressmen, gubernatorial candidates and even Mary Fallin herself all need to be involved in an issue as large and pervasive as food inequality. Oklahoman citizens have proven already that they can and will do something for their vulnerable neighbors. Now it’s time for our elected officials to do the same.
If you want to get involved with fighting food inequality even as the month of September winds to a close, it’s not too late. The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma’s Take a Seat events continue through Oct. 1 and is a TrueBlue Neighbor Partner if you want to volunteer.

Post Author: Amanda Amos