by Mike Lee,
Statistically, one in six Oklahoma seniors is hungry in our state.
It’s a tragedy that can be avoided, according to Angie Doss, director of marketing and communications for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma,
“It’s a huge problem,” Doss says of hunger in Oklahoma. “A lot of seniors are on a very tight and limited income. They may receive $600 per month. By the time you take out housing, utilities and transportation there’s not a lot left for food or medicine.
“A lot of our senior clients have faced the choice whether to pay for medicine or food.”
Oklahoma continues to rank among the top 10 states in the nation for food insecurity among seniors.
This spring, Oklahomans can double the impact of their gifts to help feed even more seniors struggling with hunger.
Through April 30, the Charles and Cassandra Bowen Charitable Foundation and the Anderson Charitable Foundation have teamed up to match donations to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to fight senior hunger – up to $130,000.
Donations will help provide food for seniors in central and western Oklahoma.
“After a lifetime of work, many seniors are living on fixed incomes and may not have enough money to purchase food at the end of the month,” said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank. “About 700,000 seniors, age 60-plus, live in Oklahoma and one in six face hunger every day.”
In a recent study by Feeding America, 27 percent of seniors in the Regional Food Bank’s service area have had to choose between buying food and buying medicine. Limited mobility and dependence on outside assistance makes seniors particularly vulnerable to hunger. In Oklahoma, seniors are 25 percent more likely to be have inconsistent access to food than the national average.
Seniors facing hunger are also forced to choose between buying food and paying for utilities. Additionally, they are more likely to have lower intakes of food and major vitamins; be in poor to fair health; have limitations in activities of daily living and have increased risk of stroke.
“At the end of the month, most seniors are out of money and depend on the Regional Food Bank,” shared one senior client. “If they did not come, many seniors would be without food at the end of the month and it would affect them all. We’re just so awfully grateful for what we get.”
The Regional Food Bank serves seniors through food pantries, emergency shelters, soup kitchens, and senior nutrition programs. Additionally, the nonprofit’s Senior Feeding program fights senior hunger through Senior Mobile Pantries, Senior Home Delivery, and Senior Mobile Markets.
Through the Senior Mobile Pantry program, the Regional Food Bank provides food each month to seniors living in nine Oklahoma City Housing Authority sites and one Norman Housing Authority site. Approximately 850 senior residents receive a sack of nonperishable food items along with produce, refrigerated items, meat, and bread.
The mobile pantry is set up as a “client choice” program, where seniors choose which items they need.
The Senior Home Delivery Program is at 32 sites in the Regional Food Bank’s 53-county service area. Seniors who, receive home delivery sacks, receive a nutritional supplement at the end of the month. These sites serve an average of 1,000 seniors a month.
The Senior Mobile Markets provide a monthly distribution of food that is set up farmer’s market style, where participants select the food they want. A typical mobile market provides a bag of non-perishable foods like fruits and vegetables, cereal, shelf stable milk, and other easy to prepare foods. Items also include protein, fresh produce and bread.
The program currently has 18 locations in the Oklahoma City metro and serves over 1,100 seniors a month.
“Sadly, many older Oklahomans have outlived their families, outlived their income or have simply been forgotten,” said Charlie Bowen with the Charles and Cassandra Bowen Charitable Foundation. “That is why this match is so important.”
Traditionally, the Regional Food Bank provides five meals for every dollar donated; however, thanks to this generous match, a dollar donation will provide the equivalent of 10 meals to seniors facing hunger.
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is the state’s largest private hunger relief organization. The nonprofit provides enough food to feed more than 110,000 hungry Oklahomans each week through a network of nearly 1,200 schools and charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. Since its inception in 1980, the Regional Food Bank has distributed more than 538 million pounds of food to feed Oklahoma’s hungry.
For more information you can contact the Regional Food Bank at 405-600-3136 or online at www.www.regionalfoodbank.org.