ENID, Okla. — Loaves & Fishes of Northwest Oklahoma is striving to raise awareness about food insecurity in the community during the month of September, which is Hunger Action Month.
Lydia Kelley, executive director of Loaves & Fishes, said the hunger-relief charity teamed up with Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma to promote ways for individuals to get involved with the effort to fight hunger in the state.
“(Hunger Action Month) is just about choosing to stand against hunger and just promoting the community involvement in the fight against food insecurity,” Kelley said.
Hunger Action Month is an initiative of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, and a network of 200 food banks that provides over 4.3 billion meals annually, helping bring food to an estimated 1 in 7 Americans, according to Feeding America’s website.
According to Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, a member of Feeding America that works hand-in-hand with 314 community-based partner agencies in Central and Western Oklahoma, the state is the fifth-hungriest state in the nation and ranks 10th for rates of food insecurity among seniors — and 1 in 4 Oklahoma children live with hunger.
Kelley said the best ways community members can get involved with Hunger Action Month include donating food items to and volunteering with Loaves & Fishes and other food banks.
Loaves & Fishes will post about Hunger Action Month on Facebook, and starting Monday and lasting throughout next week, supporters of and staff and volunteers at Loaves & Fishes will be asked to wear orange, the color of Hunger Action Month, Kelley said.
Since Loaves & Fishes opened in October 2012, more than 5 millions pounds of food have been distributed, and an average of about 600 households are assisted each month, though that number is increasing, Kelley said. In 2020, Loaves & Fishes gave out food 9,260 times to help 2,972 households — an average of 772 households per month.
Due to COVID-19 and a shortage of volunteers, Kelley said Loaves & Fishes canceled its food drive typically held at the end of September each year — which also was canceled last year.
“COVID-19 is still a factor, and ... we just don’t feel like we could do (the food drive) justice and really dedicate the work to it this year,” she said.
In late October, though, Loaves & Fishes will celebrate its ninth birthday with a drive-thru food drive, asking members of the community to donate nine of the food pantry’s most-needed items.
For information on volunteering with Loaves & Fishes or to complete the online volunteer application, visit www.loavesandfishesnwok.org/volun teer.html.