For anyone following Newark Mayor Cory Booker on Twitter, or keeping up with him in the news, Tuesday, December 4th was the big day. Booker will try to live a week on the monetary equivalent of the average SNAP benefit, which comes out to $1.40 a meal. Newark’s mayor will demonstrate how tough it is for low-income families to cover the cost of a healthy diet, especially if the main resource for their grocery budget is SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps. Booker is not the first politician to take the challenge. However, his prominence has turned the endeavor into national news, and it is worth a brief discussion about how the numbers play out in Oklahoma, where 880,939 people received SNAP benefits in 2011.
First some background. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is designed to do just what the name suggests: act as a supplement to other income. Recent numbers from the American Community Survey (ACS) show the program is largely living up to its name in Oklahoma, where an estimated 77% of participants are working families.
The supplemental income provided by SNAP in Oklahoma amounts to $1541.16 annually. The value is loaded onto a card, similar to a debit card, and funds can only be used on qualified food items; so no diapers, no alcohol, no dog food, and no vitamins. To qualify in Oklahoma monthly household income for a family of four must fall below $2,422, or $29,064 annually. Combining the average SNAP benefit with the maximum allowable income in this scenario puts total household income at $30,605.16. According to Federal Poverty Guidelines, this combined total puts a family of four at about 137% of (more…)
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It’s November and time to think about what we will make for that important meal. And for some families in Tulsa, we’re not just talking about the highly anticipated Thanksgiving Feast. Set the Table Tulsa is challenging local families to sit down at the dinner table four times a week, every week, all month long. In a busy and overly connected world, it seems like a radical idea: family bonding, without the television, the computer or the cell phone as the center of our attention. However, when we are able to incorporate this simple form of family time into our routines, it should be a cause of ongoing thanksgiving.
And let’s face it, if finding time for a sit down dinner was easy, it wouldn’t be such a rare event. It comes down to time, a precious commodity in our busy world, and if we want to spend time wisely we need to budget it just like we do our money. Set the Table Tulsa has provided a space for participants to blog about their experiences as they change the way they view mealtime. Vanesa Mares is one of the writers documenting how this experience is impacting her life. She is already keeping up with a busy schedule, between caring for her children, one of whom is enrolled in CAP’s early childhood program, and developing her own skills through CAP’s CareerAdvance® program. Yet she and her family are making the time to eat together. In her posts she discusses her family’s process of setting a meal plan and trying to disconnect from the cell phone, which is something to which we can all relate. Turning the phone to silent and setting it aside during dinner is one suggestion I am challenging myself to adopt after reading her posts, and I suspect I’ll be thankful for thirty minutes of peace and quiet. (more…)
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Posted in Community Partnerships, Food and Nutrition, Health, Poverty, Research & Data, Women, tagged cancer studies, food and nutrition, Intergenerational Poverty, women's health on October 16, 2012 |
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We know it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, because pink ribbons abound and players are wearing pink shoes on Monday Night Football. The byword is, of course, awareness, but that leads me to wonder what aspect of the issue we should focus on. Besides the importance of early detection, what else should Americans be aware of, given the fact that breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer related deaths for women in the United States? Perhaps a greater emphasis should be put on access to care, nutrition and the link between poverty and survival rates.
Since 1975, breast cancer survival rates have been increasing, but there is a disparity of outcomes tied to demographics. The American Cancer Society’s Breast Cancer Facts and Figures: 2011 – 2012, tells us that poverty and lack of health insurance are associated with higher mortality rates. We know that early detection is vital to long-term survival, but lack of resources and insurance means many women go without recommended screenings. Another concern is the disparity in medical treatment after diagnosis for patients with lower-income, as well as the presence of additional health issues, which brings us again to the issue of insurance coverage. These are crucial barriers to overcome, yet there is more to it than just income and insurance, as recent research is finding nutrition to be another important component. (more…)
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As food security continues to be an issue for many Americans in the wake of the Great Recession, Hunger Action Month seeks to spotlight the problem and inspire people to do something about it. According to the USDA, a family is food insecure if they have a limited or uncertain ability to acquire safe and nutritious food. NPR’s All Things Considered just reported on recent government figures and it turns out this definition applies to 1 in 5 children living in American today. That’s 16.6 million children who are at risk of not having their nutritional needs met during a critical period in their development.
And it’s not just families with children who have limited or uncertain means of obtaining food. According to a 2011 AARP report, a growing number of people age 40 to 59 are having trouble putting food on the table. People ages 50 to 59, they point out, face multiple obstacles after a job loss, often finding it difficult to obtain new employment and if they do it is usually for less money. Not yet old enough for Social Security and other age specific safety net programs, they are also unlikely to have children in their household to qualify them for other forms of assistance. What’s more, this age group has a rather low uptake in SNAP benefits, the one program for which many would qualify, perhaps due to reluctance or lack of awareness.
Meeting the needs of hungry families has proved to be a struggle throughout the country, and here in Tulsa, Oklahoma it is no different. (more…)
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Posted in Family, Health, tagged food and nutrition on July 15, 2010 |
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I know what you are thinking, another post about food. But, it is important to continue discussing the food crisis in Oklahoma. Since I am a numbers person, I thought I would share some statistics about hunger in Oklahoma.
According to Oklahoma Food Bank Network:
- According to the USDA, Oklahoma ranks 8th in the nation in the number of people per capita who are hungry.
- We are 7th in the nation in those who are food insecure, which means that the food intake of some household members is reduced and normal eating patterns disrupted because the household lacks money and other resources for food.
- The percentage of Oklahoma’s population classified as food insecure is 13.0 %, well above the national average of 11.3%.
- One in every five Oklahoma children lives in poverty and is at risk of going to bed hungry.
- Of the elderly who receive food through Oklahoma’s Food Bank System, 32 % report having to choose between buying food or paying for medicine or medical care.
- 32 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are classified as “food deserts,” meaning that at least 25 percent of the population lives ten miles or more from a supermarket or supercenter. Nine of those counties are “severe food deserts,” meaning that the entire population has limited access to such food outlets. These counties are Cimarron, Dewey, Ellis, Grant, Greer, Harmon, Harper, Hughes and Jefferson Counties.
- Of households experiencing hunger, less than 20 % are classified as unemployed. More than one-third are disabled and/or retired, while the remaining 46% have at least one working member.
- According to a 2007 study by the Sodexho Foundation, Oklahoma loses an estimated $1.4 billion each year from hunger through illness, increased illness and decreased academic achievement alone.
The two regional food banks in Oklahoma distribute about 42 million pounds of food to families, churches, food pantries, soup kitchens, and other organizations around the state every year. Despite this amazing service to our state, we still have families who have to choose between paying the electric bill and having food.
To learn more about the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma click here.
To learn more about the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma click here.
To locate the food bank nearest to you click here.
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Ah…summer…the time of year when kids get to be kids, playing all day without the stress of getting up early and homework. But, some kids have even more stress during this time of year. More than 30 million children in the US benefit from the national school lunch program during the regular school year, but only 1 in 6 of these same kids will receive similar subsidized meals during the summer. The Summer Food Service Program does sponsor summer feeding sites throughout the US, but the scope of those sites is limited by several factors. This first is the lack of sites in many communities that desperately need the program. Site location is limited by law to those areas where 50% or more of children are eligible for free or reduced lunches. This seems to be a very inclusive metric until your factor in many rural and suburban communities where poverty is present but not concentrated. The Center for American Progress states that there are just 34 summer food sites for every 100 school lunch programs. In addition to a lack of sites, site retention is also a limiting factor. The cost of operating a summer feeding site can overwhelm new and small programs. Another limiting factor for the families served by summer feeding programs is transportation. During the regular school year schools provide transportation to and from school, but during the summer months many families are unable to travel to summer feeding sites because of a lack of reliable personal transportation and limited public transpiration.
The Center for American Progress proposes the US House of Representatives’ child nutrition bill include these reforms:
- Invest additional resources for site expansion and retention
- Provide transportation assistance
- Reduce the area eligibility threshold from 50 to 40%
Despite these limitations, Tulsa County kids are served by many summer feeding sites. All sites in Tulsa County provide breakfast and lunch, with some providing a snack time as well.
To find the Tulsa County summer feeding site near you click here.
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To continue with last week’s theme of providing tools to assist low-income families, this week’s post will focus on the SNAP Pre-Screening Tool and the SNAP Retail Locator. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the new name for the program that is commonly referred to as food stamps. The eligibility standards for SNAP can be somewhat confusing, but the SNAP Pre-Screening Tool helps families determine if they might be eligible for assistance. The tool asks a series of questions about the individual or family seeking assistance then makes a preliminary determination. The pre-screening tool does not make a final decision of eligibility, but it is a useful tool for caseworkers or individuals seeking assistance. To see a list of SNAP eligibility requirements click here.
Families who utilize food stamps can also have difficulty locating retailers who accept SNAP, especially if the family is new to an area. The SNAP Retail Locator allows families to search for nearby retailers who will accept SNAP. The search can be performed using a specific address, city and state, or zip code. The search also allows the user to select between the nearest 10, 25, or 50 retailers. the search results are plotted on an interactive map and in list form near the bottom of the page. The results includes the retailers name and address. The tool can be used by individuals and families from their home, but it could also be useful to provide a list of nearby retailers at the time the assistance is awarded. To find your local SNAP office click here.
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The movement to revolutionize school lunches is not a new one. Some say it started with Alice Waters, whose focus on local grown food led to the Edible School Yard program. More recently chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and the television show associated with it have brought school lunch reform into the mainstream. In Tulsa, OK, we are lucky enough to have Global Gardens – a non-profit educational organization that seeks to empower low-income children and neighborhoods through community gardens. Each child in the program has their very own plot on which they can grow anything the Oklahoma weather will allow! In addition to showing children that gardening is fun and useful, the program seeks to:
- Develop science-based community garden spaces, where the community has ownership of the implementation, progress, and maintenance of the garden.
- Encourage the use of the garden as a central gathering and meeting place for the community.
- Teach an all-encompassing curriculum that connects the garden with other disciplines and allows students to connect the learning in the garden to both school learning and real life experiences.
- Establish local, national, and international connections with students through the Internet, based on growing and eating food, and various cultural practices involving plants.
Now, as part of her Let’s Move! initiative to end childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama is launching the Chefs Move to Schools program in hopes of making school lunches more nutritious and appealing. According to a White House press release:
The “Chefs Move to Schools” program, run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will pair chefs with interested schools in their communities so together they can create healthy meals that meet the schools’ dietary guidelines and budgets, while teaching young people about nutrition and making balanced and healthy choices. With more than 31 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program and more than 11 million participating in the National School Breakfast Program, good nutrition at school is more important than ever.
“Many children consume as many as half of their daily calories at school and as families work to ensure that kids eat right and have active play at home, we also need to ensure our kids have access to healthy meals in their schools,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “We are going to need everyone’s time and talent to solve the childhood obesity epidemic and our Nation’s chefs have tremendous power as leaders on this issue because of their deep knowledge of food and nutrition and their standing in the community. I want to thank them for joining the Let’s Move! campaign.”
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NPR reports on an innovative project in Baltimore to bring groceries to neighborhoods without access to a full-service store with fresh fruits and vegetables (called “food deserts”). Residents order online and pick up at the library:
Under a new city program, patrons can order groceries online and pay with cash, credit or food stamps. The orders are filled by Santoni’s supermarket, a longtime Baltimore grocer. They deliver the items to the library the next day.
[...] health department staffers spend a few hours each week helping patrons order their groceries online. One is Jackie Coles, a single mother of three who works as a custodian.
Like most in this neighborhood, she doesn’t own a car.
“The market around here has been closed for a little over a year,” Coles says. “And you have to go so far to get to another market. You know, you have to pay somebody to take you. Or it’s a long walk.”
But Coles is now a regular at the library. She gets books, plus easy access to healthier food options.
“Fruit is fresh. The vegetables are fresh. I get the butchered meat and all. It’s really good,” she says.
I don’t want to claim any credit whatsoever for this initiative, but I will say that a couple years ago I thought of using Tulsa’s local grocers (who have online ordering and delivery) to get groceries to our food deserts. We studied the feasibility and complications – the online systems don’t accept food stamps or WIC, they may not deliver to North Tulsa, people might not have access to the internet, perhaps deliveries could be made to CAP early childhood centers, etc. So I’m really happy to see that Baltimore figured it out using their library system – why didn’t Diama think of that?
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Yesterday the Tulsa World, our local paper, published a front-page story describing the huge increase in the amount of food the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma distributed to local food pantries in recent months. Food pantries are the entities that get the food into the hands of people – so the article included a more in-depth look at one pantry, called Iron Gate. Iron Gate is actually both a soup kitchen and food pantry; its staff and volunteers serve hot meals every day of the week and distribute bags of groceries every Friday. It operates out of Trinity Episcopal Church, whose parishoners are actively involved, in downtown Tulsa. (Full disclosure: I am Chair of the Board of Directors for Iron Gate.)
The thing is, the paper included a photo of guests receiving grocery bags, and to many Tulsans these folks did not look like hungry people should apparently look . The paper’s website received so many hostile email comments in response to the article that the paper had to shut the comment section down.
What the commentators failed to consider – and indeed, what most people who don’t experience hunger themselves fail to realize – is that just as hunger is a result of being poor, so, too, can obestiy be a result of being poor. How? Consider the cost of a value meal at any fast food restaurant; or think of the restaurants that offer items for $1. Now think of the cost of a salad or sandwich on whole wheat bread with something other than bologna. Then maybe take a drive through a low-income neighborhood. How many grocery stores are there compared to convenience stores? How many restaurants are there with healthy options?
The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) put together a fact sheet outlining some of the reasons why low-income families – the kinds of families Iron Gate serves every day – might be at greater risk for obesity. A fact sheet alone isn’t going to change everyones’ perceptions. But perhaps if just some people can be persuaded to consider that not everyone lives the same kind of life they do, there will be less hostility out there.
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