October 26, 2012
By Mike Averill, World Staff Writer
With more than 675,000 Oklahomans struggling with hunger each day and one in four children going to bed hungry each night, Oklahoma ranks fifth in the country in hunger.
To help combat the issue, Gov. Mary Fallin started the Feeding Oklahoma Food and Fund Drive. Since its inception three years ago, the drive has provided more than three million meals.
"It's remarkable that we even have people in the state of Oklahoma that are hungry based upon our low unemployment and an economy that's doing much better," she said.
"We want to bring awareness that we can do something about those that don't have enough food in our state. We know that 13 percent of our population doesn't have enough food and their health certainly suffers from that. We know that Oklahoma is ranked the fifth-hungriest state in the nation. That's something we can do something about."
Fallin was in Tulsa on Thursday to be recognized by the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma for her efforts to fight hunger and to promote the statewide food drive.
"Each time we talk about food insecurity in Oklahoma, the hungry in Oklahoma and the different ways people can pitch in and help, whether it's a box up at your business and asking people to bring nonperishable items to donating money, those are all ways that we can help our fellow Oklahomans," she said.
Fallin was awarded the Sara J. Waggoner Hunger Awareness Award by the food bank.
The award is named after the previous and longtime director of the food bank. Eileen Bradshaw, executive director of the food bank, said that when she took over the position, the shelves of the food bank's warehouse were bare.
"I saw those shelves fill up because of this food drive," Bradshaw said. "I love the governor's efforts. ... She's made hunger part of her message. It's not glamorous. I hope it gets you some votes, but I know that's not why you do it."
As for why so many people are hungry and what can be done to combat the issue, Fallin pointed to the low income levels throughout the state.
"I think it's the people who are under-employed in our state who need some extra help," Fallin said. "That's been one of my top goals is strengthening the economy and bringing better paying jobs to our state.
"Some good news about income in Oklahoma is the per capita income of a family of four has actually gone up by 9 percent over the past year. But we still know there are a lot of Oklahomans that are in jobs that don't pay well enough."