Patrick B. McGuigan
Just before start of this year’s Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Gov. Mary Fallin unveiled results of a major “food and fund” drive – an effort that brought into the state’s privately-run food banks resources needed to provide approximately 2.6 million meals for people living with daily “food insecurity.”
Eileen Bradshaw of Tulsa’s Community Food Bank of Western Oklahoma observed in a Blue Room press conference with state Capitol reporters, “Despite our robust Oklahoma economy, there are a lot of people who are hungry.” She observed Fallin “could simply talk about economic progress, and ignore those who have been left behind.”
Bradshaw related stories about students in FFA and other organizations who helped make this the most successful of the three efforts Fallin has supported since being elected the state’s chief executive in 2010.
The governor said her awareness on this issue has intensified over the past three years, recalling a trip to the Tulsa food bank and its full warehouse at the peak of food gathering, where she was “surprised to learn that was only enough food for two days.”
She praised the food banks and affiliated programs like “backpack food” that sends supplies home with children from “food insecure” environments to assure better nutrition during weekends and holidays.
This year’s drive more than doubled in effectiveness, Fallin told reporters. In 2011, food and resources sufficient for 1.2 million meals was garnered. As a result of this year’s effort, in addition to 823,278 pounds of food, $359,611 in contributions will allow food bank officials to augment those warehouse resources.
Fallin pointed to successes in all 77 counties, and hailed charitable organizations and businesses who contributed: “Oklahoma is a great place because of its people. Their support of this food drive will ensure more Oklahoma families have a better holiday season.”
Participating with Fallin and Bradshaw at the celebration of the “Food and Fund Drive” were Rodney Bivens of the Central Oklahoma Food Bank in Oklahoma City, and Laura Watts, a marketing consultant who helped garner significant attention for the drive.
Bivens thanked the governor, saying, “I am extremely grateful to Governor Fallin for her work toward ending hunger and to the many people of Oklahoma who donated to the food drive. Everyone involved went above and beyond to help us exceed the Governor’s goal. With the holiday season approaching, we can now help even more families in need.”
Drop-off sites for the four-week drive included: BancFirst locations, Love’s Travel Stops, Verizon Wireless stores, the two major food banks and all partner agencies. United Parcel Service PS picked up and delivered donations.
Other private donors to the effort included Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, AT&T, BP, Continental Resources, Williams Companies, IBM, OneOK, Sandridge, WPX Energy, Homeland Stores, Phillips 66, Walmart, Integris, The Oklahoman, and students from many schools, including Bishop McGuinness Catholic School. Jones PR of Oklahoma City handled statewide marketing for the drive.
Officials have estimated Oklahoma has more than 675,000 “struggling with hunger” each day. The state’s food banks serve more than 150,000 daily, a number that increases during holiday seasons.
Information about the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma can be accessed online at www.feedoklahoma.org. The group’s promotional materials describes it as “a private, 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that acts as a link through which the food industry and community may donate food and other goods. The products are then distributed to nearly 1,000 schools and charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties.
“In fiscal year 2012, the Food Bank distributed 42.2 million pounds of food and product to help the charitable community effectively feed people in need. Since its inception in 1980, the Food Bank has distributed more than 453 million pounds of food to feed Oklahoma’s hungry.”
The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, based is Tulsa, is one of the state’s largest, private relief organizations. The group distributes “donated grocery items to 460 Partner Programs in 24 counties of Eastern Oklahoma. These programs include food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, after school programs, shelters and senior centers.
“In turn, those programs collectively feed 60,000 people each week, the equivalent of 621,000 meals per month.”
The community group last year distributed more than 12 million pounds of food.