Another illustration of the need for food in this pandemic and the conditions it has created revealed itself Thursday at a food give-away by the Chabad Community Center for Jewish Life and Learning in The Village.
An announcement from the organization created a line of cars that went from their parking lot at 3000 W. Hefner Road stretching ten blocks west to the Hefner Parkway.
City leaders from The Village, Oklahoma City and other parts of metro volunteered to help the members of Chabad.
Congresswoman Kendra Horn who is running for re-election and her opponent, state Senator Stephanie Bice were also there working along side other volunteers. OKCPD Lt. Wayland Cubit, running for Oklahoma County Sheriff, joined the crew.
It seemed that this election year of hyper-partisanship, political leaders were eager to participate in a clearly humanitarian event like the food give-away.
The semitrailer of food provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture was emptied of its 2,250 boxes of fresh produce and milk in only a few hours.
“Great community act”
Richard Adjaye was waiting in his car to pick up food for his family of four when we talked with him about the effort.
“I think this is great for them to be able to supply food to people during this pandemic,” he said. “A lot of people are probably scared to go to the grocery store so they could just come here and be able to just get food and nourishment dropped off to them. It’s a great community act.”
Meeting the need
Rabbi Ovadia Goldman is the leader of Chabad and talked to Free Press about the growing needs across the metro and their efforts to try and alleviate them. The Center, built 21 years ago, is an attractive building in a part of the metro that wouldn’t seem at first sight to have food insecurity issues.
So, why the effort?
“First of all in this part of town itself, it would maybe surprise people that there are people that are living a little bit above their means or maybe more than their means for one reason or another,” said Goldman.
He pointed out that their outreach is throughout the city. And, they talked with people from all over the metro as they began to hand out food at 3 p.m. that afternoon.
So it’s not necessarily just for this, just like our center was never built here just for this northwest part of town. We’re here for anybody today and we let people know we’re not going to ask you questions come out here.”
Hunger Action Day
The Village City Council member Cathy Cummings pointed out that Thursday was Hunger Action Day, an emphasis of Feeding America, the 40-year-old organization that developed the concept of regional food banks.
She and others were wearing orange, the color for the day and the Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that nearly a quarter of Oklahomans are food insecure,” said Cummings. “And, that is literally one in four kids who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Rabbi Goldman has inspired all of these volunteers to come and help, and literally it is a community of volunteers that are helping our community.”
“When people are struggling with food insecurity because they have to pay the light bill or utilities or pay their rent or have to buy medicine they skip meals, and their kids aren’t getting fed,” she said.
Cummings said that GoFresh Produce in Tulsa provided the refrigerated semi-trailer rig to bring the USDA food from Tulsa. They are participants in the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program that provided the food being distributed.
Government leaders seemed very clear about why they were there.
HD 83 Representative Chelsea Branham helped with the effort. Her district covers a portion of The Village, Nichols Hills, north Oklahoma City and southwest Edmond.
“We’re obviously going through a huge financial and economic crisis,” said Branham. “And, there’s a lot of families that are hurting and we’ve had tons of stress and strife with the unemployment system and still have individuals who haven’t received their payments back from March.”
“People are hurting right now because of COVID-19 and the impacts of the pandemic,” said State Senator Stephanie Bice.
Systems “maxed out”
SD 30 Senator Julia Kirt whose district covers The Village was helping out.
“Our systems are maxed right now,” said Kirt. “You know, with the big surge of need, you have to have extra distribution sites like this. Our Regional Food Bank systems are amazing. And they do a great job with federal money and some corporate money, but there has to be these extra efforts when we have this kind of crisis.”
“You always have food insecurity. Now, obviously, in a pandemic, it’s been a crazy year,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt. “Unemployment is high and needs are higher than ever.”
HD 85 Representative Cyndi Munson represents The Village, Nichols Hills and parts of NW Oklahoma City talked to us about the need.
“Those who maybe traditionally haven’t needed help in this way or needing it now because so many people are losing their jobs and their businesses are closing,” said Munson. “They’re not making as much income as they have in the past. So your needs are increasing everywhere all across the community and wages have stagnated for 20 years.”
City of The Village City Council member Adam Graham talked with Free Press about the needs that now span across all parts of the metro.
“People that were middle class people that normally you wouldn’t see needing this have been booted out a job,” said Graham. “They have no income, they’re not getting any assistance from the county. They can’t get rental assistance. I think people need help more than so than ever, all over the country, all over the state and every city, including The Village.”
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