by Richard Comeau, Program Director, Hunger Free Oklahoma
Once every year in Mrs. McNeeley’s first grade class in Granbury, Texas, each student arrived at school carrying one carrot, one potato, one stick of celery, one can of broth and so on. Just one.
The students filed through the door and she helped each of them scrub the vegetables and open the cans. After thoroughly washing their own hands, the children were split into groups with parents to peel potatoes, cut celery, and begin to stir all of the different ingredients into a large pot sitting on the stove. After all of the ingredients were assembled she pulled out the ceremonial rock and dropped it in. With the back drop of a slowly simmering pot of soup, the aroma wafting through the bright room, the children settled down to listen as she read “Stone Soup” – a story about a community coming together with the resources it had, no matter how big or small, to feed people in need.
At that point in time the message was lost on me. I’m pretty sure my stomach was doing the thinking that day while I waited on my own warm bowl of soup. However, looking back, the message rings loud and clear: with partnership we can take even the most modest resources and make a big impact.
Over the past three years at Hunger Free Oklahoma, I have had the privilege of working alongside people and organizations of every shape and size as we try to understand how we can take the resources we have and make an impact on the overwhelming issue of hunger in Oklahoma. This collaborative spirit has led to new tools, programs, and resources for Oklahomans at risk of experiencing food insecurity and the results are beginning to show. Through coordinated efforts to increase access and awareness, Oklahoma continues to increase the number of meals served to children in the summer. And the ratio of eligible families participating in SNAP continues to increase, even as nationally we are seeing a decrease.
Partnership is not easy. Every organization has its own primary focus, its own rules, and its own skills. However, it is the spirit of partnership and the sharing of our diverse skills and resources that lends strength to our collective purpose. We have already seen the benefits of coming to the table to discuss and act and I am confident that with continued partnership we will continue to see improvements in the lives of the people we aim to serve. We have all of the ingredients required to end hunger in Oklahoma, but one person or organization doesn’t have them all. Continued improvement depends on each of us bringing our one resource, one skill, or one focus that only we have and adding it to the pot in order to feed everyone in our community.
Thank you to each of the people and organizations that HFO has the honor of calling partners. Your work makes a difference in the lives of thousands of people and together our work can impact thousands more. Together we can make a hunger free Oklahoma.