Oklahoma Food Banks Hit Hard By Recession

Thursday, September 22nd 2011, 6:49 pm
By: News 9

Ed Murray, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY – Stocks at food banks across the country are reaching crisis levels. At the Regional Food Bank in Oklahoma City, there is concern over having enough to meet the growing demand.

Volunteers at the Regional Food Bank in Oklahoma City have been boxing food for distribution to food pantries in 53 Oklahoma counties, but the numbers aren't pretty. The food bank actually distributed nearly 2 ½ million pounds of food more than it took in last year and due to cuts in federal donations and state aid, the warehouse inventory is the lowest it's been since 2006.

"As bad as it's been for the last three years because of the economic conditions in this country, I think 2012, potentially, is going to be even worse," said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank.

It's certainly off to a bad start. Bivens said the Regional Food Bank is already down nearly 4 million pounds of food in just the first two months of the new fiscal year.

"This time last year, we were running about a 65-day supply of food. We're down to about 20 days now," he said.

"Literally, when you get down to around 10 days to 15 days, it's just-in-time inventory. It's going out as fast as it's coming in."

And the scary truth is resources usually go down as demand goes up.

"We were talking to one of our partner agencies in Midwest City just a couple of weeks ago," Bivens said. "He said 25 percent of the people coming in for food now have never asked for food before in their lives."

And that has forced certain food pantry agencies to reduce hours and give out less food.

"We may have to start making tough decisions on who's the priority for that food. Whether it's the senior, whether it's the single mother with a family, or whether it's the child, and those decisions we don't want to have to make," Bivens said.

It's estimated that 600,000 Oklahomans are struggling with hunger right now, and many more are just one paycheck away from joining those ranks.

Bivens said Oklahomans can help with donations of money or food or by volunteering. He said food would not be leaving the warehouse if not for the help of volunteers.