01

Jun

Team is Community


I love the Thunder! My husband and I moved to Oklahoma City one year before the Thunder came to Oklahoma City and while I had grown up a Dallas Mavericks fan my allegiance quickly changed after my first Thunder game.  During the playoffs, I put a Thunder flag on my car and stayed up late into the  night to cheer on my team.  The playoff games are so unique, because businesses sponsor shirts for all of the fans at the game to wear. My favorite playoff shirt this season had the phrase “Team is Community.”  It summed up what I feel like this team has done for our great state.

When I worked on the Food Bank’s school pantry program, I would visit schools and discuss the program with staff. In every school, I noticed a Thunder flag, Thunder foam finger or Thunder poster in the office or principal’s office. The presence of that logo made me feel at home and connected to the school.

Honestly, I have gotten that same “team is community” feel through my work at the Food Bank. I feel a special connection with the 53 counties that we serve. I have met partner agencies, donors, school officials in Lawton, Ada, Weatherford, Enid, Ponca City, Red Rock, Guthrie and more. Every person is passionate about the role they play in fighting hunger in their community. In my first visit to Paoli to discuss the school pantry program, I intended to meet with school officials and to tour the location of the school pantry. The pantry worked in partnership with the local Methodist church, so SIX community volunteers also showed up to meet with me! Several of them took time off of work so they could learn about the pantry program but also explain to me the impact that the food would have on their community. I was blown away by their desire to help hungry kids.

Last week, I walked into a small business and smiled when I saw a big Feeding Hope and Letter Carriers  food drive poster on the wall.  I thanked them for serving as a collection site. The business owner quickly pointed out that she hadn’t collected very much. This didn’t matter to me. She had brought awareness to one of our biggest community food drives and she had taken the time to become an ally and advocate of the food bank and the hungry people that we serve.

The Food Bank is a big team that relies on so many different partners. I challenge each of you to become a part of our team through volunteering, donating or advocating. Now, all I need is a big foam Food Bank finger to wave around!

Ellen Pogemiller
Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
Special Projects Coordinator

18

May


Quibids, Homeland partner to provide grocery shopping spree for two local families

Streamer- and balloon-clad shopping carts sped the aisles of a south Oklahoma City grocery store, May 10, as Quibids and Homeland partnered to make two families’ days a little brighter, and their grocery bills a little lighter.

As part of the Quibids Gives Back program, Quibids employee volunteers showed up at Homeland eager and ready to help two very deserving families on their $500 shopping sprees. And the fun didn’t stop there. Once the families made their way through the checkout lane, both families were presented an additional $250 Homeland gift card.

I’m honestly not sure who had a better time that day. Several Quibids volunteers played ball up and down the Homeland aisles with one of the family’s children and the others tallied, lifted, loaded and even carried groceries to the families’ cars!

I’m so grateful to have gotten to witness such an exciting event. It’s not always easy to decide where to spend your volunteer time or charitable dollars, but hunger is such a wide-spread need that has such a simple solution. If you haven’t been before, consider volunteering at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. It’s such an easy place to make a difference and see the impact you can make in our community.

The charitable support of the people and businesses in Oklahoma City always amazes me, and it makes me proud to call this city my home. I see that willingness to help time and again from companies big and small. And thanks to that same generosity from Quibids and Homeland on May 10, I know that at least two Oklahoma families with young children won’t have to face the pain of hunger tonight.

Marla Freeman
A Member of the
Regional Food Bank Development Committee

11

May

Annual Letter Carriers Food Drive


Since 1993, letter carriers in central and western Oklahoma have collected more than 3.5 million pounds of food to feed the hungry. Last year, we collected more than 916,000 pounds.

On Saturday, help your letter carrier “Stamp Out Hunger” by leaving nonperishable food donations by your mailbox. All donations benefit the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and its partner agencies throughout central and western Oklahoma. This effort is part of the 20th annual letter carriers food drive, the largest one-day food drive in America.

More than 675,000 Oklahomans are at risk of hunger every day. Letter carriers see the faces of hunger up close and personal. We’re often among the first to know when a family is struggling to make ends meet. We deliver the past-due and cutoff notices to neighborhoods that have families who are struggling to make ends meet.

The faces of hunger aren’t just the poor and the homeless. The majority of those served by the Regional Food Bank are the working poor, seniors living on fixed incomes and children. Many working parents find themselves living paycheck to paycheck and have to make difficult decisions about whether to pay their bills or put food on the table.

With one in four Oklahoma children going to bed hungry every night, we can’t afford to sit idly by. If children don’t eat, they can’t function cognitively, behaviorally or socially — and that puts the future of our state and country at risk.

The letter carriers food drive is successful because of its simplicity. All we ask is that you put nonperishable food items in a plastic bag and place it by your mailbox by 7 a.m. Saturday. Most needed are canned meats, vegetables and fruits, packaged meals and peanut butter. Your letter carrier will pick up your donations and take them to the post office, where the food will be sorted and delivered to the Regional Food Bank and partner agencies.

Letter carriers are supported in this humanitarian endeavor by the National Rural Letter Carriers Association, the United Way, Campbell’s Soup Company, Valpak, the AFL-CIO, Feeding America and most importantly, the U.S. Postal Service.

Every can donated makes a difference in the lives of those who are struggling with hunger. Thank you for your support in helping us “Stamp Out Hunger” in Oklahoma!

 

James Bryant and Steve Riggs

Bryant is Oklahoma City postmaster. Riggs is past president of the Oklahoma City branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Read the article at newsok.com

04

Apr

The Working Poor: Invisible in America


Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend the 2012 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, which was cosponsored by FRAC and Feeding America. This annual conference provides the chance for hundreds of anti-hunger advocates from all corners of the U.S.  to convene for the purposes of learning and promoting best practices, hearing stories of both tremendous need and triumph over barriers to food security within our respective communities, and also to share the voice of the hungry and poverty-stricken with our nation’s leaders.

The conference opened with headlining speaker David Shipler, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Working Poor: Invisible in America, who spoke about his years spent traveling across the country trying to capture the true nature of what it means to be an American family living the daily fight against poverty. What Shipler primarily found through speaking with thousands of hardworking individuals and families was a common denominator between those who were employed but still facing the constant climb to find a way out of poverty and into the land of enough – and this common denominator nearly always involved hunger and food insecurity. After the demands of rent, utilities, transportation, and even medical costs often necessary to keep one earning a paycheck, food is usually the only semi-optional expense left on the table (certainly no pun intended). When one’s entire budget is subject to the immediacy of what is necessary to sustain a basic functioning of one’s life, how can we expect hardworking Americans in poverty to lift themselves out of their current situation, and further, how are we surprised when we find out that hunger is real in the United States and in our own communities?

This question was perhaps the purpose of the culmination of the week’s events into the final day of the conference, in which advocates met with their members of Congress to discuss the unacceptable problem of hunger and lobby for workable solutions. I had the pleasure of meeting with several of our Congressmen and their staffers, including Congressman Frank Lucas, the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. We spoke about what Oklahoma’s food banks have been facing in the past year – a sharp decline in USDA Commodities (53%), rising food insecurity represented through record amounts of Oklahomans having to enroll in SNAP (over 620,000), nearly half of which are children, and our partner agencies that have experienced a 30 – 50 percent increase in the need for emergency food assistance in just the past fiscal year. Most importantly, we discussed the ongoing issue of the Farm Bill, which is the single largest piece of legislation affecting our industry in that it provides dollars that go to vital federal nutrition programs and every type of federal distribution of emergency food assistance. Through speaking with Chairman Lucas, it became clear to me that we are fortunate to have a decision-maker in Congress that seems to truly understand the vast scope of the problem that hunger represents, and that it will not only take supporting emergency assistance programs like SNAP and TEFAP, but that it also requires systemic changes that help support and grow the capacity of our local systems of agriculture.

However, one or even a handful of leaders that understand the problem and its possible solutions are not enough. Chairman Lucas impressed upon me that garnering awareness and support for anti-hunger efforts, and subsequently the passing of a just Farm Bill, will take the work of many constituents keeping in frequent contact with their legislators involved throughout all areas of Congress. If your members aren’t called and don’t receive letters or emails about the reality of hunger in the communities that they represent, they simply can’t know the full scope of the problem, and they certainly can’t devise effective solutions on their own. Regardless of the exhaustion we face over the seemingly increasing divisiveness in the political arena, important issues still need to be heard, and hunger is an inexcusable problem that crosses all party lines.  If you’ve never contacted your legislators and would like some information on how to easily navigate the system, please explore the links below. I am also always available to answer any questions related to hunger-related legislation and how we can be effective advocates together!

Contact your Legislator:

Find Your Oklahoma Legislator

Write a Letter

Write an E-mail

Make a Phone Call

Set up a meeting

Five Practical Advocacy Tools Information Packet

Electoral Advocacy:

Voter Registration Information

 

Torri Christian
Public Policy Manager

27

Jan

Different but Still the Same


I’ve heard it said many times that no two food banks are exactly the same. This phrase didn’t really seem true until recently. I had the opportunity to attend the Agency Capacity, Programs and Nutrition Learning Conference sponsored by Feeding America in Chicago. The conference was great, the weather was great, and the company was also great! There were about 400 other food bankers from all over the nation looking for the opportunity to network and share great ideas.

It was especially exciting getting to attend various sessions about childhood hunger programs. Programs such as the Backpack Program, Kids Cafe, and School Pantries were heavily discussed. I have been working rather closely with the School Pantry program here at the Regional Food Bank, so any session that discussed some aspect of that program, I was there! So many food banks are attempting to embrace this new program as a way to reach different child populations. I was excited to hear about all the various models of the program. Food banks in the network offer mobile pantries, temporary in-school set up, or permanent in-school set up. Regardless of the model, one thing that remains the same among all of the food banks is that our main goal is to provide hunger relief.

At the conference, there were several break-out sessions that addressed the importance of raising hunger awareness. From Sesame Street educating the younger population, to making changes in Capitol Hill, the issue remains that hunger truly exists and it is our responsibility to make sure everyone is informed about the issue. It was very reassuring knowing that there are so many organizations around the nation seeking to provide assistance to those in need. While each food bank in the Feeding America network may vary in size, capacity, and even the number of child hunger programs they have, we are all advocates for ending hunger.

Traci Simmons
Childhood Hunger Corps
Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

02

Dec


Sitting on my desk is a coaster with a picture of two children playing, and above the picture it reads: “Because kids have better things to think about than hunger.” What a great daily reminder of why I do what I do here at the Food Bank. As a new AmeriCorps Member serving in the position of Programs Outreach Coordinator at the Regional Food Bank, I have the opportunity to work closely with two of our Childhood Hunger programs – the Kids Café program and the Backpack Program.  Each of these programs is designed to provide nutritious food to children who might otherwise go without an evening or weekend meal.

True hunger is a concept to which I was virtually oblivious to as a child. I am sure there were times it was not easy for my parents to make ends meet, but not having enough food to eat was never even a thought that crossed my mind. I had some awareness (thanks to occasional missionary slideshows at church) that there were hungry children far away in some other part of the world, but in my own country – let alone my own school?  Not a chance.

Of course, throughout my young adult years, I have become more aware of issues that exist here at home, but I really had no concept of the magnitude of child hunger in our state before I began working at the Food Bank. The figures are staggering: over 240,000 of Oklahoma’s children (that’s one in four!) suffer from food insecurity – meaning they have inconsistent or inadequate access to nutritious food at home. The Backpack Program alone provides weekend meals to over 10,000 children each week throughout central and western Oklahoma – and the program is still expanding. That figure floors me: 10,000 plus children are at risk of going without food to eat each weekend in our service area alone!

I occasionally take time to read through some of the stories that school coordinators of the Backpack Program pass along to us, which is both heartbreaking and reaffirming simultaneously. The problems these children have to deal with are often so astronomical that a backpack full of snacks seems insignificant at best. However, reports of the joy and gratitude with which both children and parents receive this food remind me of the importance of what this program does – it eliminates one worry for these children, so that regardless of what other circumstances they face at home, at least there is security and peace of mind in knowing that this basic physical need is met. This frees children to focus more energy on learning, growing, exploring, and imagining, as elementary aged children should be able to do…because kids really do have better things to think about than hunger.

Erin Cox
AmeriCorps Member
Programs Outreach Coordinator

23

Nov

A Morning at City Rescue Mission


As a vegetarian, laying bags’ worth of raw chicken legs on giant cookie sheets was not my idea of a fun Thursday morning activity. Pulling on the plastic gloves and apron, though, I tried to shove that thought aside and focus on the task at hand. Fellow Food Bank employees Traci, Joe, Tim and I were taking the morning to volunteer at City Rescue Mission in order to get a better look at the impact the Regional Food Bank’s partner agencies have on real people’s lives. And for us, that started in the kitchen, prepping chicken for dinner.

City Rescue Mission, at its most basic, is a homeless shelter, providing warm beds and three square meals a day to some of Oklahoma City’s neediest people—almost 400 people a day last year. Their goal, though, is to help people turn their lives around. Residents have the option to enroll in the Bridge to Life program where they get anger management counseling, addiction treatment and support finding a job, housing or going back to school. People in this program can stay up to two years, as long as they are working toward those goals.

City Rescue Mission partners with approximately 30 outside agencies, bringing everything from literacy classes to dental extractions under one roof for easy access. Additionally, they are partnering with the Regional Food Bank to build a Food Resource Center, which will be a best-practice food pantry that could distribute millions of pounds of food annually. The hope is that this new mode of intervention will help prevent homelessness in the first place; giving people the means to safely ride out bad days and hard times that otherwise might have turned them out on the streets.

Abby, one of City Rescue Mission’s few employees, is a bubbly, energetic woman who tutors resident children, among other things. Nice enough to conduct a tour for us, she gave us some insight into her experiences working at City Rescue Mission. Her obvious affection for their clients came through when she told us with a smile, “Don’t even think about feeling sorry for these women. They have sass.” Though residents obviously face an uphill battle, Abby was quick to talk about her favorite success stories. She teared up as she told us about visiting a family who had recently moved out of the Mission into a real home, with a yard and a living room. She also mentioned a woman who was living at City Rescue Mission as she finished up studying to be a pastry chef. As we walked, residents were diligently repairing some flooring; others were sweeping stairs.

And that’s why I was happy to be there, slimy raw chicken and all. Because prepping a dinner that could be a person’s only food for the day, or that gives people the energy they need to turn their lives around, is an honor. And as we moved into the cafeteria, taking trays from women after their meal, their faces—so many different races, different ages, different backgrounds—reminded me why the Regional Food Bank’s work is so important. Hunger can affect anyone. Heading back to the office, I was grateful for my renewed sense of perspective. Getting a chance to see the Regional Food Bank’s resources in action brought the meaning of “Fighting Hunger…Feeding Hope” to life.

Emily Windahl
Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
Childhood Hunger Programs Coordinator

03

Nov

A Warm Welcome


A new city, a new job, and new opportunities, I’m so excited that I have the opportunity to begin working at the Regional Food Bank. It’s been quite a journey. I was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina and graduated from Clemson University in 2010 with a degree in Biological Sciences and Spanish. After graduating, I had the opportunity to teach English in Chile for a few months. I had a blast traveling and seeing different sites throughout South America. After my experience in Chile, I moved to Houston, TX for a year where I interned with a nonprofit organization that assists abused, neglected, or HIV positive children. My experiences traveling and living in different places have opened my eyes to the true issues that exist within the lives of many children in the world. Hunger is real!

I have always had a passion for helping others. Seeing hungry children in third world countries is disappointing. However, what is more disappointing is to know that our fellow community members may also be struggling with hunger. It’s upsetting knowing that such a huge issue like hunger even exists in America- the land of opportunity, right?  Well, the exciting news is that despite the reality of hunger, we can all make a difference. As a Child Hunger Corps Member through Feeding America, I will be working directly to help increase the capacity and capability of child hunger programs throughout our service areas. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue pursuing my passions to alleviate child hunger and am excited to work directly with the staff at the Regional Food Bank. When I first visited, I was in awe at the size of the facility and encouraged by the level of community commitment. I’ve noticed that the food bank not only provides food for those in need, but it also serves to build lasting relationships with individuals in the community. It’s so comforting knowing that I get to be a part of such a strong network that seeks to change the lives of those in need. It has been such a warm welcome and I am looking forward to the exciting things that will happen in the next few years!

Traci Simmons

Childhood Hunger Corps

06

Oct

What I Did During My Summer Vacation


If I’m remembering correctly, the last person to assign me this classic essay topic was my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Styles. I’d just spent the summer with my grandparents, and spending time with my grandparents meant doing a lot of yard work.

Now, a couple of decades later, I find myself at the end of another summer of yard work, but, not having a Mrs. Styles to report to, I’m sending my essay out into the blogosphere instead.

To begin, I don’t mind getting dirty, and I love being outside. That’s why, when looking at the different volunteer opportunities on the Regional Food Bank’s website last May, I thought Urban Harvest would be the best fit for me.

I’ve been able to volunteer at the Food Bank since then, and while I respect and value the work that’s being done in the volunteer center and our partner agencies, I have no regrets about my decision to spend eight hours each day in the Food Bank’s great big backyard.

Anyone who’s never had the opportunity to see the garden hiding behind our warehouse should really find a reason to go check it out (for a good excuse, I suggest coming to one of our open volunteer sessions from 8-12 on Tuesdays and Thursdays). If you’ve ever wondered about vermicomposting or using an aquaponics system, it’s very informative and also pretty cool. As for me, I had never wondered about these things before turning up to volunteer, because I’d never heard of them. This made it even more informative and fun.

I expected to spend a lot of time weeding, watering, and planting. That’s what I did the summer before the fifth grade, after all. I wasn’t wrong. I did a lot of that stuff.

But, what my grandparents hadn’t prepared me for was all the other awesome stuff I got to do. By the end of my three months of yard work, I’d helped build a scenic field of rolling compost hillsides. I’d poured earthworms through a self-rotating mechanical sieve. I’d saved tilapia from a minor oil spill, chased a rabbit through a greenhouse, strapped a Ghostbusters-style sprayer to my back, and learned a ton about natural gardening.  If you’re curious about vermicomposting and aquaponics, ask me. I’ll tell you all about it.

Volunteering in the Urban Harvest gardens turned out to be the perfect way for me to help provide fresh food for hungry Oklahomans, and be outside and get a little dirty while doing it.  Overall, it was a pretty sweet summer.

Denice Hurlbut

Volunteer Retention

Please indulge us while we take a break from our regular flow of restaurant reviews to share some exciting news about what’s happening at EatAroundOKC. We’re very pleased to announce that we’re beginning what we hope will be a long-term partnership with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. This outstanding organization battles on the front lines of the fight against hunger in our state and by supporting their efforts, we hope to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those in need.

For full details about the commitments we’ve made to Regional Food Bank, you can check out the Our Cause page here on our website.

$1 Donated for Every Voucher Sold

The most tangible aspect of our partnership is that, beginning with this week’s deal, we’ll be donating $1 for every voucher sold through the EatAroundOKC Deals program to the Regional Food Bank.

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the Regional Food Bank operates so efficiently and with such buying power that they are able to make seven meals out of every dollar donated. So, when you buy a voucher through EatAroundOKC Deals from this point forward, you’re not only getting a great meal for yourself at a great discount, you’re also supplying seven meals to those in need.

Sharing Through Our Communications Channels

We also plan to support the Food Bank by utilizing our communications channels, as appropriate, to spread the word about their activities and ways in which we all can support their efforts. As you read updates from the Regional Food Bank in our Twitter feed or on our Facebook page, we hope you’ll stay open to their message and consider lending your support as well.

Why Regional Food Bank?

Naturally, we spend a lot of time thinking about and talking about food. As with anything in life, without balance, it’s easy to get wrapped up in our own world where dining options are limitless and where it’s easy to forget that for many people, food is purely a means of survival. We hope that by channeling some of our efforts towards the cause of fighting hunger in our state, we can provide that balance and can be a part of the solution in our own small way.

Thanks for Your Support!

We are grateful for your support of EatAroundOKC and we hope you’ll also consider supporting the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma with your time and your donations. Thank you for being a part of the discussion and a part of the solution.

Tim Wall

EatAroundOKC Founder and Editor

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