A new study shows Oklahoma continues to have a high rate of food insecurity among its residents.
The United States Department of Agriculture reports that 15.2 percent of Oklahomans were food insecure from 2007 to 2009, a slight increase from the 2004 to 2006 rate of 14.6. Oklahoma has the fifth highest rate in the nation. Arkansas has the highest rate at 17.7 percent. The national average is 14.7.
The report defines food security this way:
Food security-access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life-is one of several conditions necessary for a population to be
healthy and well nourished.
Oklahoma residents are also getting food assistance from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in record numbers. In August, the Oklahoma Department of Humans Service reported that 598,126 residents were getting help from SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. This was an increase of more than 9,000 over the previous month.
The USDA report and the growing number of people receiving SNAP benefits here indicate that too many Oklahomans continue to suffer financial hardship in the recent economic downturn. Unfortunately, food insecurity and hunger remain pressing social issues here.
Meanwhile, David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, points out in a recent blog post that 7,500 Oklahomans could lose their unemployment benefits in December unless Congress extends them by Nov. 30. According to Blatt, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is at 6.9 percent. That represents 121,800 people.
Blatt argues that “unemployment remains at stubbornly and unacceptably high levels,” even though there are signs that the economy is improving.