In late November, News 9 reported rural Oklahoma communities were being cut out of a UDSA food distribution program due to a lack of federal funding.
Since the story, USDA food distributor RK Group reversed course and sent an additional 1,500 boxes of fresh produce to be divided between eight rural communities.
“When you ran the story, we were very graciously called by pastor Derek Scobey the next evening,” Luther United Methodist Church Pastor Patricia Johnson said. “I started crying on the phone.”
Scobey is the pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in northeast Oklahoma City, where food deliveries were continuing. He told Johnson they’d work together to push the USDA to continue deliveries to her rural communities.
“The northeast side of Oklahoma City is not the only community that is suffering, that there is a food insecurity,” Scobey said. “I really do believe in some ways, in those rural towns it’s worse than it is here on the north eastside of Oklahoma City.”
A USDA spokesperson said the change was due to a reduction in federal COVID-19 relief funds set aside for the Farmers to Families food box program.
“An additional $500 million was made available for the fourth round of the program through ... the CARES Act, but the amount of funding available is about one third of the total available in previous rounds, which resulted in some non-profits being unable to participate,” the USDA spokesperson said in a statement.
Johnson said Sen. James Lankford, R–Oklahoma, called to ask about the disruption in distribution.
“It was a tough decision from USDA to say ‘we could deliver it in all of the places, we just deliver less’ or ‘we could deliver more food to fewer places and ask some of those first folks to come pick that up,’” Lankford said.
He said as Congress works on an additional COVID-19 relief package, additional funding for the USDA program could reinstate widespread rural distribution.
On Friday, the distribution will continue as a total of 5,500 boxes of fresh produce are delivered to Oklahomans in need, including rural communities.
Food distribution begins at 11 a.m. Friday at Ebenezer Baptist Church at 3600 N. Kelly, at 11:45 a.m. at Wellston Baseball Stadium at 900 Hickory and at 12:30 p.m. at The Hill at Quail Springs Baptist Church at 14401 N. May in Oklahoma City.
Smaller distributions are also set for Davenport, Prague, Edmond, Chandler, McCloud, Foyil and Dale.
“It’s coming right at the perfect time, before Christmas break with the children going home for school,” Johnson said.