A bill that will assist hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans facing hunger passed the Senate on Tuesday in a unanimous, bipartisan vote, according to the bill’s co-author, State Senator Andrew Rice.
“When our neighbors are going hungry, all of us are affected – it’s a moral issue. I’m encouraged that all of my Senate colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, share my views and showed they are willing to take immediate action to combat food insecurity,” Rice said.
“Families across our state are being forced to skip meals or to choose between food and other needs,” Rice said. “Unfortunately, with prices at the grocery store on the rise, more and more Oklahomans are likely to face food insecurity. Oklahoma is currently the fifth-worst state in the country for hunger issues; only ten years ago we were 12th. We must act now to reverse this troubling trend.”
The term “food insecure” refers to families and individuals who do not receive enough daily nutrition to meet minimal medical benchmarks.
Rice, D-Oklahoma City, co-authored the Food Security Act (HB 2833) following the report from the Oklahoma Task Force on Hunger, which Rice and co-author Representative Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, established last year. Senator James Williamson, R-Tulsa, co-sponsored the act in the Senate.
The act would establish a standing Oklahoma Food Security Committee to implement the task force recommendations. It would also provide tax relief for those at greatest risk for hunger, enact tax rebates for charities working to address the hunger crisis and grant small farmers selling their goods in farmers’ markets sales-tax exemptions.
“We can solve this crisis, but we all must remain committed to ensuring that our children, our seniors and our families do not go hungry. We all share a stake in addressing this issue – hungry children have more trouble learning, hungry adults have more trouble working and providing for their families,” Rice said. “Our goal is to reduce food insecurity in Oklahoma to at or below the national average by 2013. Today’s vote is an important step toward this goal and toward providing critical relief to thousands of Oklahoma families.”