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HFO President/CEO Chris Bernard shares his reaction to the state’s decision to not participate in the Summer EBT program.

The Oklahoman: Why policymakers need to invest in programs that address Oklahomans’ food insecurity.

Hunger Free Oklahoma in the News

Read news coverage highlighting Hunger Free Oklahoma team members and work.

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Mvskoke Media: Principal Chief Signs Tribal Law Bringing Summer EBT Program to Muscogee Reservation

“We’re so proud to partner with the Muscogee Nation as we continue to fight hunger in Oklahoma,” Hunger Free Oklahoma President/CEO Chris Bernard said. “We want to thank Chief Hill and Second Chief Beaver and the National Council for their vision and for caring for their communities.”

The Oklahoman: Muscogee Nation will join summer food aid program rejected by Oklahoma governor

“The program will be funded with $14.7 million from the USDA, $1.9 million from the Muscogee Nation and $1 million from Hunger Free Oklahoma, a nonprofit focused on reducing food insecurity.”

New York Times: 15 G.O.P. Governors Shut Out Food Aid for 8 Million Children.

“Chris Bernard, president and chief executive of Hunger Free Oklahoma, an advocacy group, said he was disappointed by the state’s response given its strong track record on combating hunger in recent years.”

The Washington Post: Republican governors in 15 states reject summer food money for kids

“Chris Bernard, the chief executive of Hunger Free Oklahoma, said that with the state not opting into the program, an estimated 300,000 children won’t have access to the summer monetary benefit when school lets out.”

The Oklahoman: Why policymakers need to invest in programs that address Oklahoman’s food insecurity.

“We are extremely disappointed that the state says it is not able to implement Summer EBT for 2024, and we are committed to working with and holding the state accountable to ensure implementation in 2025 and beyond.”

Tulsa World: We know how to solve food insecurity but need scalable resources and reach of governments

“We know how to solve this problem, but it cannot be solved without the scalable resources and reach of federal government, state government and Indigenous nations; the flexibility and innovative approaches of the private sector; and the cooperation of our policy makers to trust the experts, invest in what works and focus on the end goal. It takes all of us,” said Hunger Free Oklahoma President and CEO, Chris Bernard.

Fox 25: Oklahoma lawmakers and organizations collaborate to combat child hunger through expansion of school meal programs

“One in five middle-income families surveyed reported that their children skipped a meal in the last year,” said Hunger Free Oklahoma Executive Director, Chris Bernard, “It’s impacting working families who are just struggling to get by.”

PBS: How states are responding after federal funding for free school meals for all ends

“We know food-insecure kids or kids who don’t have access to food during the school day tend to do worse in reading and math and language acquisition early on. And if we’re making large investments in education, say, in the academic space or in a new curriculum, you’re really just kind of throwing your money away if you don’t meet some of these other basics,” says Chris Bernard, Hunger Free Oklahoma’s President/CEO.

Fox 25: Big Story Breakdown: School Lunches in Oklahoma

“I like to say school lunches are another school supply that we often forget about a lot but it is one of the most essential. If a kid is not fed, they are not ready to learn,” says Jessica Dietrich, Hunger Free Oklahoma’s Director of Government Relations and Public Policy.

KFOR: Oklahoma families, districts worry over school lunch debt

“185% of the poverty line is what you have to be under to qualify for reduced price lunch,” said Chris Bernard, the President of Hunger Free Oklahoma. “Families that are over that, are still struggling… Until we have a solution that actually helps support those folks, I think you’re going to continue to see school lunch debt at higher rates than we did pre pandemic.”

The Oklahoman: USDA official praises OKC project to encourage healthy eating

“Because of the purchasing power of Double Up, we are seeing grocery stores stock more produce, and we are also seeing people actually try new things because now they have the money to spend,” said Leslie Young, the senior program manager for Double Up Oklahoma.

2News: Hunger Free Oklahoma responds to expanded work requirements for SNAP recipients

“Tying food, which is a basic need to a work requirement which is often out of somebodies control, doesn’t make much sense, and the data tells us it’s actually not effective,” said Bernard.

NewsOn6: Double Up Oklahoma Program Now Available in Sand Springs

“We are 49th in the country in fruit and vegetable consumption which leads to all sorts of health problems. So we really do this as a way to one: increase food security and two: increase healthy outcomes for Oklahomans and also to stimulate local economies,” Bernard said.

KGOU: Oklahoma students will see increased access to summer meals under omnibus bill

“The most effective way to deal with food insecurity, period, is an EBT model, to give people the resources to purchase their own food when they need it, and the beauty of that program is it stimulates local economies. It keeps money flowing through local businesses,” – Chris Bernard

Hunger Free Oklahoma Secures $14.2 Million Grant to Increase Access to Fruits and Vegetables in Oklahoma Food Deserts

“Collectively, this support will allow us to make Double Up Oklahoma the largest nutrition incentive program in the region. More importantly, this grant allows us to make sure more communities have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and more Oklahomans have the resources they need to make healthy choices,” – Chris Bernard

2News: Federal grant helping food insecure communities in Oklahoma

“With inflation setting food prices at an all-time high, a $14.2 million grant is making it possible for Hunger Free Oklahoma to expand a program that is helping put fresh, healthy food on dinner tables across the state.”

Tulsa World: White House Hunger Conference puts spotlight on Oklahoma group

“We know that with the right programs, improved systems, collaborative partnerships and strengthened policies,” Bernard said, “we can end food insecurity and increase access to affordable nutritious food for all Oklahomans.”

NewsOn6: Snap Nutrition Incentives Increases Shopping Produce in Oklahoma

“We’ve noticed that total fruit and vegetable sales by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or ‘SNAP’ consumers, have increased by more than 300% since the start of the program,” Wetherill said.

Watch

Chris Bernard speaks with RSU Public TV about food insecurity issues in Oklahoma.

HFO Executive Director Chris Bernard speaks with KOCO about the $14.2M grant for the Double Up Oklahoma program.

“57 additional mouths got fed because of [Tulsa Kitchens Unite] besides the 3,600 meals a week we cooked. This program that was supplied to [Blue Dome Market] kept this restaurant open.”
– Robert, Owner of Blue Dome Market

“I like to say school lunches are another school supply that we often forget about a lot but it is one of the most essential. If a kid is not fed, they are not ready to learn,” says Jessica Dietrich, Hunger Free Oklahoma’s Director of Government Relations and Public Policy.
Chris Bernard, HFO Executive Director, speaks on an Oklahoma Watch Out panel on the impact of hunger in Oklahoma.

Find out about HFO’s Pilot Project. Story by OETA, featuring Chris Bernard, HFO Executive Director, as well as OSDE and Tahlequah Public Schools.

Listen

OEA Episode 149 – Hunger Free Oklahoma

Chris Bernard speaks with the Oklahoma Education Association (OAE) about school meals and the 2024 Summer EBT program decision.

A Conversation with Chris Bernard, Executive Director of Hunger Free Oklahoma, Public Radio Tulsa

Chris Bernard talks to Dr. John Schumann about the state of hunger in Oklahoma.

Why You Should Donate Food & Blood

Chris Bernard talks food insecurity with Tulsa Area United Way, one of our community collaborations.

Hunger in the News

Read news coverage about hunger issues, opportunities, and improvements affecting Oklahomans.

Oklahoma Voice: Oklahoma lawmakers to consider expanding school meal programs, but GOP views vary

“We do believe in stronger local food systems, and we’d love to see kids eat more fresh vegetables,” Bernard said. “This was a way to kind of include all those things to make it more economically viable for schools, build the local food system (and) create healthier options.”

New York Times: 15 G.O.P. Governors Shut Out Food Aid for 8 Million Children

“Chris Bernard, president and chief executive of Hunger Free Oklahoma, an advocacy group, said he was disappointed by the state’s response given its strong track record on combating hunger in recent years.”

The Oklahoman: Oklahoma declines to join new summer food program for children, a disappointment to some child advocates

“We are always in the bottom 10 in the country in terms of food security,” Bernard said. “Families and kids are struggling for sure, and the (summer food) program was something we’ve supported for a long time.”

Tulsa World: Food insecurity worsening as pandemic efforts dwindle in Tulsa area, report says

“Nearly all of those (programs) have ended over the last 12 months, while inflation and housing costs are at record levels, which has resulted in the steepest increase in food insecurity since the housing bubble burst in 2009,” Bernard said.

News from the States: USDA expands universal school meal program for Oklahoma districts

“In its simplest terms, we all know kids need to have a full belly in order to fill their brains with the knowledge they need,” Bernard said. “The question is, to me, are we as a state willing to make the investment required to make sure that happens, or are we willing to let the dollars we invest in education continue to not be leveraged in their maximum way because we can’t meet some of these most basic needs.”

KOSU: Here’s what Oklahomans who lost food following storms, power outages need to know

After the strong storms this weekend, hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans were without power – and the ability to keep food refrigerated. Many have had to discard items that have gone bad.

The Oklahoman: Slim majority of Oklahoma delegation backs debt ceiling deal

Chris Bernard, president and CEO of Hunger Free Oklahoma, said restrictions to the nutrition program “should never have been part of the debt ceiling discussion. Hunger Free Oklahoma opposes increasing barriers for Oklahomans trying to put food on the table. We urge our leaders to take up the challenge of decreasing hunger and poverty — free of myth and performance — during the Farm Bill discussions this fall. 

The Oklahoman: School meal program stalls in Legislature in spite of large budget surplus

“It was well supported in the House, and I think it is well supported in the Senate, but I think the (Senate education) chairman is playing politics, and playing politics with hungry school kids is kind of unconscionable,” said Rep. Jeff Boatman, author of House Bill 1376, which would have increased the cap for free school meals from 130% of the poverty line to 250%.

KFOR: Federal fund will replace stolen SNAP benefits

“Help could be on the way for Oklahomans who have had their food stamp benefits drained right out of their bank accounts.”

KFOR: ‘We need everyone to change their pin’: Oklahoma Human Services warns of SNAP scams

“As card skimming scams continue to cripple Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) customers nationwide by draining their accounts, Oklahoma Human Services is now recommending anyone with the benefits to change their pin numbers immediately.”

KOAM: Could ‘Food Stamps’ Program Give Memory a Boost?

“Researchers found that eligible older adults who used the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — commonly called food stamps — had two fewer years of mental decline over a 10-year period than those who could have registered for the program but did not.”

FRAC: The Pandemic Disrupted a Decade-Long Decline in Food Insecurity in 2020, but Government Policy Has Been a Critical Support

“Examining food insecurity over this longer period is illustrative of just how disruptive the pandemic has been, and on the flip side, how important a strong nutrition and social safety net is for all Americans.”

Homeland Security: DHS Publishes Fair and Humane Public Charge Rule

“This action ensures fair and humane treatment of legal immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Consistent with America’s bedrock values, we will not penalize individuals for choosing to access the health benefits and other supplemental government services available to them.”

Oklahoma Watch: As Universal Free Lunch Program Ends, Obstacles Return For Some Families

“We’re really doing a disservice by not keeping (programs like this) in place and it’s going to be harder for schools,” Chris Bernard said. “It’s going to be harder for families. And I’m not sure we can predict every result from it yet, but over the course of this school year, you’re going to see it.” 

KRMG: USDA extends flexibility that’s helping manufacturers, states get formula to WIC families

“USDA is covering the added cost of non-contract formula to make it financially feasible for states to allow WIC participants to purchase alternate sizes, forms, or brands of infant formula.”

FRAC: Thrifty Food Plan Reevaluation and SNAP Emergency Allotments Combined to Cut Poverty

“The states registering the highest poverty reduction percentages from the combination of TFP reevaluation and SNAP EAs were: New Mexico (-26.4 percent), Oklahoma (-22.2), Louisiana (-21.1), West Virginia (-20.9), Mississippi (-20.8), and Rhode Island (-20.5).”

KOCO: COVID-19 public health emergency extended in the US

“Plus, many low-income families are receiving enhanced food stamp benefits thanks to the declaration.”

FRAC: FRAC’s Community Eligibility Report Highlights Value of Healthy School Meals for All, Supporting Need to Extend Child Nutrition Waivers

“Schools that participate in community eligibility often see increased participation in school meals, decreased stigma around school meal participation, a reduction in administrative burdens and costs to schools, and bolstered school nutrition finances.”

Supermarket News: Amazon eyes nationwide acceptance of SNAP EBT for online grocery payments

“E-tail giant extends its reach to more than 99% of SNAP households.”

Tulsa World Editorial: New federal agriculture programs could reshape American food supply

“The first grants from new U.S. Department of Agriculture programs intended to bolster food purchasing from local producers are coming to Oklahoma through the schools.”

The Washington Post: Republican governors in 15 states reject summer food money for kids

“Chris Bernard, the chief executive of Hunger Free Oklahoma, said that with the state not opting into the program, an estimated 300,000 children won’t have access to the summer monetary benefit when school lets out.”

USDA: USDA Selects Five States to Test Mobile Contactless Payments in SNAP

“Oklahoma is excited to be a pilot state in the effort to create a quicker, more efficient and secure way of providing SNAP benefits to our state’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Tom Pennington, Oklahoma Human Services financial administrator.

KGOU: Oklahoma students will see increased access to summer meals under omnibus bill

“The most effective way to deal with food insecurity, period, is an EBT model, to give people the resources to purchase their own food when they need it, and the beauty of that program is it stimulates local economies. It keeps money flowing through local businesses,” said Bernard.

Reuters: Nutrition benefits for families could increase under U.S. agency proposal

“The USDA proposed expanding the list of groceries participants in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program can buy to include grains like quinoa and teff, a range of non-dairy milks and cheeses as well as canned fish and beans.”

FRAC: USDA Food Security Report Underscores the Critical Role of Federal Nutrition Programs

“The annual food security report released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) found that hunger fell in 2021 compared to the previous year, underscoring the critical role that the federal nutrition programs play in keeping hunger at bay during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

NPR: The U.S. diet is deadly. Here are 7 ideas to get Americans eating healthier

“Without access to free meals at school, many children go without food at all during the day, and many more do not have access to the nutritious foods they need to thrive.”

MSN: Exclusive: Biden administration likely to extend baby formula help for low-income moms

“A spokesperson for the Agriculture Department, which oversees the WIC program, confirmed the department is taking ‘a very serious look at extending the flexibilities and hopes to do so soon.’ ”

St. Louis Public Radio: Native Americans across Midwest embrace traditional foods rejected by centuries of colonization

“The Quapaw Nation in Oklahoma has been at the forefront of building food sovereignty programs.”

USDA: USDA to Invest in Expanding SNAP Online Shopping

“Online grocery shopping is a vital resource that improves access and convenience for all, including low-income families.”

KTUL: COVID-19 meal waivers to end in June leaving some students hungry

“According to Hunger Free Oklahoma, Oklahoma is historically the worst state in the nation with kids who are on free and reduced lunch, and the State Department of Education says meals will no longer be free even if the federal waivers were approved, students will only be able to get free lunch if they qualify for it, and fill out the free and reduced meal form.”

WGN Radio: Global finance meeting focuses on war-driven food insecurity

“Global finance leaders are putting the growing crisis over food insecurity and skyrocketing food prices at center stage as members of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank meet in Washington and grapple with the brutal effects of Russia’s war against Ukraine.”

FRAC: FRAC Urges Senate to Pass Bi-Partisan Legislation to Keep Children Fed as the Nation Recovers from the Pandemic

“The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) commends Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for introducing a bill, the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act, that will enable children to maintain continued access to child nutrition programs as families, schools, afterschool and summer programs, and child care providers recover from and respond to the economic, health, and educational fallout from the pandemic.“

FRAC: USDA Report Underscores the Urgent Need to Extend Child Nutrition Waivers

“Congress must provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with the authority to continue child nutrition waivers through the 2022-2023 school year in the appropriations package currently being negotiated and expected to pass this week.”

FRAC: Black History Month: Six Champions Fighting to #EndHungerNow in America

“Advocates include Members of Congress sponsoring and introducing legislation, as well as leaders in nonprofit advocacy organizations.”

FOX 23: Broken Arrow farmers market to accept SNAP and SFMNP for first time

“The farmers market will open on Saturday, April 2, for its 19th season and will be open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. through October

FRAC: New Data Underscore Importance of SNAP Benefit Redemptions During COVID-19

“With Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits taken into account, SNAP benefit redemptions topped $125 billion in FY 2021, according to new data from USDA.  That represented a 61 percent increase over the prior year.”

Tulsa World: Schools will stop serving free lunch to all students — a pandemic solution left out of new federal spending package

“…most schools will have to resume the old three-tiered system where some families don’t pay at all, some receive discounted lunches, and others must pay full price.”

Tulsa World Column: Ways for lawmakers to curb hunger and build economic security for Oklahomans

“It’s a new year, but many previous challenges remain. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oklahoma has the fourth highest food insecurity rate in the nation.”

USDA: USDA Announces Increased Funding for School Meals, Child and Adult Care Meals

“U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced an increase in funding to help schools continue to serve kids healthy meals this coming school year and provide financial relief for schools and child care providers.”

Tulsa World: New legislation could extend COVID school meal waivers

“Hunger Free Oklahoma and many others have been calling for action on these crucial issues for months now,” Executive Director Chris Bernard said.

Tulsa World: School districts bracing for end of COVID-19 meal waivers

“The waivers were designed to respond to COVID-19, and it’s this mindset of acting like ‘COVID-19 is over, so we’re not dealing with it,’” Hunger Free Oklahoma Executive Director Chris Barnard said. “Regardless of your opinion on the public health side of it, the impacts aren’t over.”

Time: A Crisis Point.’ Schools Are Fighting to Extend a Meal Program That Keeps Millions of Kids Fed

“…when the omnibus package that funds the government for Fiscal Year 2022 was introduced last month, an extension of the funding for school meal waivers wasn’t part of it. Instead, schools faced a looming deadline: the waivers are set to expire June 30.”

Pressroom

For media inquiries, contact Melissa Marshall, Communications and PR Manager: 405-850-0467.

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