Chris Bernard, Hunger Free Oklahoma’s executive director, was invited to testify at a congressional roundtable, along with four other experts from across the nation, as part of an effort to examine the issue of hunger in rural America. The roundtable, Ending Hunger in America: Food Insecurity in Rural America, was the twelfth event in a series by the Congressional House Committee on Rules, led by Chairman James P. McGovern (D-MA). The series of events highlights food insecurity in America and helps to gather information for Chairman McGovern’s call for a White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger and Health.
To view the testimony video, go to https://rules.house.gov/video/ending-hunger-america-food-insecurity-rural-america.
Bernard’s testimony included a look at the barriers many Oklahomans face in obtaining food security, such as transportation, increasing costs, access to technology, stigma, and limited community resources. He also spoke of the tremendous strengths in rural communities that when leveraged, can have huge impacts: social cohesion and shared experiences, orientation toward solutions, quick and effective organization, and determination and resiliency.
Bernard asked the Committee for their help in ending hunger in Oklahoma by leveraging the effectiveness and efficiency of SNAP and electronic benefit programs to reduce food insecurity and support local economies. SNAP participants are more likely to spend locally in rural settings, supporting their local economies and businesses.
“The recommendations I set out in my testimony reflect the sentiments shared by members from both sides of the aisle and many hunger experts before me. We must empower people and communities to make their own choices and determine what solutions are best for them. We must remove red tape and invest in communities. We must incentivize rather than restrict. We must leverage the strengths of our private sector and existing systems, while ensuring equitable access,” said Bernard.
Bernard spoke about the quantity of pilots in the anti-hunger space across the nation and the need to scale the most effective. In Oklahoma, one of the largest and most successful pilots currently operating is the Double Up Oklahoma (DUO) program, which incentivizes fresh fruit and vegetable purchases by matching each dollar spent in SNAP with one dollar in DUO Bucks that can be used to buy fresh produce (up to $20 per day).
Bernard concluded by saying, “Being in poverty is a full-time job just to access the resources available to you. The more we can streamline that from a national level, the better.”
See Chairman McGovern’s press release here: https://rules.house.gov/press-releases/chairman-mcgovern-announces-roundtable-hunger-rural-america