Oklahoma Hunger and Poverty Policy Questions

Please read these questions and let us know what your organization and others in the Sooner State are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need.

Virtually all states have budget deficits and extensive financial problems this year and beyond.  The states are also the custodians and administrators of multi billions of dollars of federal assistance programs. State policies related to hunger and poverty contain a great deal of state money that is in short supply right now but much more federal money that can grow as the use of the programs grows.

These state policy questions are meant to begin a conversation about how states can deliver more services to their citizens who are facing extreme long term unemployment, hunger, home foreclosures and loss of health insurance and pensions. 

Please read them and let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need, especially the poorest of the poor, the millions of new poor, seniors, returning vets, children and the homeless.

Our intention is to create a place on our website that will highlight policy actions that state based organizations are taking and how they are proceeding.  We also hope to host a WhyHunger State Policy Award for the best state policies in the U.S.A.

1. Oklahoma has an above average percentage of its population living in poverty and the 5th highest percentage of households facing low or very low food security. What programs and efforts are in place to combat poverty and hunger in the state? Who is involved?
2. A 4.5% tax applies to non-prescription medicine and food. Most states exempt food purchases from the state tax. Why does Oklahoma tax food? Is there any legislator or organization attempting to have these purchases exempt?
3. Oklahoma does not have a Shared Work Program.  Why not?  Is there any effort to bring one to the state?
4. Oklahoma has the lowest number of children in the Summer Nutrition Program per 100 in the National School Lunch Program.  The percentage of students participating in both the School Lunch and the School Breakfast Program is the 4th highest in the country. This means many children are not getting enough food during the summer. What aspects of the School Lunch and School Breakfast program lead to such high participation, and can those aspects be applied to the Summer Nutrition Program? Is there any effort being made to expand the number of locations that distribute food?
5. There is currently no WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program.  Are there any plans to introduce one?
6. The infant mortality rate is the 5th highest in the country and the percentage of adults without health insurance the 6th highest. What is being done to help people obtain health insurance and prevent the unnecessary death of so many infants?
7. Oklahoma has an incredibly low minimum wage ($2) for employees of businesses with gross sales less than $100,000. The state also has a very high percentage of jobs that pay below the federal poverty line.  Is there any effort underway to increase the minimum wage or introduce a living wage?
8. There is no state LIHEAP in Oklahoma.  Is there any effort in the legislation to introduce one?
9. Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of houses being served by LIHEAP yet the maximum benefit is only $220.  This is incredibly low for a maximum benefit.  Is there any effort being made to increase this amount?
10. Only 6% of families living below the federal poverty line receive TANF.  This is one of the lowest recipient rates for TANF in the country.  Are there any plans to increase participation in TANF?
11. Oklahoma is leading the nation with the highest percentage of four year olds enrolled in a state Pre-K Program. What has made the state Pre-K Program so successful?
12. 7.0% of the state budget is spent on corrections. Is there any movement to investigate alternative options for corrections?
13. What other statewide policies or programs are you aware of that are helping to fight hunger and poverty, or are there any that are responsible for increasing it?

Please let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction to address these questions by contacting Executive Director and Co-Founder Bill Ayres at [email protected]

Feel free to inform us of any mistakes we may have made in any of these questions. Also we would appreciate any comments on policies or statistics that might have been overlooked.