Help Create a Hunger-Free Summer for Kids
As school ends, one decent meal a day for many children also will end. The Community Food Bank of Northeastern Oklahoma will take up the slack for some families but, even with that, area families will struggle with greater food insecurity during the summer months. Most of these families are the working poor and suffer from food insecurity throughout the year. Food insecurity means that these men, women and children do not have reliable access to an adequate amount of affordable, nutritious food, leaving them consistently hungry or faced with going hungry at any time.
Eileen Bradshaw, executive director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, answered some questions via email about families and food insecurity in Oklahoma. As the need rises, the Food Bank is more than ever in need of donations and volunteers.
TK: What are families facing in terms of food insecurity in the summer? And why is the need so great?
Bradshaw: In Oklahoma, 1 in 4 children is food insecure. During the school year, students who qualify, receive free and reduced breakfast and lunch five days a week at school. When school lets out those meals are no longer available and children go hungry.
TK: Why is summer a particularly difficult time for families?
Bradshaw: Not only are families now worried about finding the means to feed their children meals that are no longer received at school, but utility costs go up in summer with children in the house during the day. Working families may also face increased cost related to childcare, transporting kids to relatives, or activities for their children.
TK: How many people are food insecure, and how many of those are children?
Bradshaw: In Oklahoma, 421,843 children, or 62 percent of all students receive free and reduced meals during the school year. At Broken Arrow schools the total is 8,525 students or 45 percent, Jenks is 4,306 or 37 percent, Sand Springs 3,067 or 58 percent, TPS is 34,881 or 88 percent, and Union is 10,619 or 66 percent.
TK: Those are staggering statistics. Who are these people?
Bradshaw: These are children in hard-working, low-income families, most of whom have at least one family member employed in a full-time job. Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of minimum-wage workers in the country. So a family with a head of household working a minimum wage job would still fall below the poverty level.
TK: What does the Food Bank do to ensure that children are fed?
Bradshaw: The Food Bank has a plan towards a Hunger-Free Summer. First, our Mobile Eateries will serve about 1,800 meals a week to children in need. Next is our partnership with Tulsa Public Schools to host some of the Summer Café feeding sites. In addition, we will expand the amount of fresh produce offered to families at area early learning centers. Finally, we will provide more food to all of our dedicated partners working to feed families across the eastern part of the state.
TK: What can people do to support the Food Bank?
Bradshaw: For every dollar donated to the Food Bank, we can provide the equivalent of four meals to people who are hungry. Donations are the most efficient way to provide help to our children.
For those who would like to help, please go to the Donate Now page on our website at okfoodbank.org and make a donation designated for Summer Feeding 2016. Those funds will be matched dollar for dollar thanks to a generous $75,000 matching grant from the Helmerich Trust. They can also give us a call at 918.585.2800.