The Community Market of Pottawatomie County Food & Resource Center, in affiliation with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, hosted a launch event Wednesday with community action opportunities for area businesses and volunteer groups.

The Community Market of Pottawatomie County Food & Resource Center, in affiliation with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, hosted a launch event Wednesday with community action opportunities for area businesses and volunteer groups.

Attendees learned how hunger impacts the lives of those in Pottawatomie County.

Sean Voskuhl, state director AARP Oklahoma, said hunger is a tremendous problem and 82 percent of residents in this area said they want to help.

“We want this to be a real community center,” he said.

Data from the survey his firm conducted show 55 percent of the Pottawatomie County population is below the threshold of 130 percent poverty and that one in six is food insecure.

The nonprofit named Daniel Matthews its new executive director at the gathering.

“As we come together as a community we have the opportunity to be a game changer for those in our county who battle hunger,” Matthews said.

They are not just numbers, he said. “Each one has a name and a story,” Matthews said.

He told the story he read of a mother who did not tell her 3-year-old daughter it was her birthday –– because she could not give her child a birthday cake.

Every child should get to celebrate their birthday with a cake, he said.

“We have more than enough resources to care for these people,” Matthews said. “People should not have to choose between food and medications.”

AARP announced a dollar-for-dollar match contribution up to $5,000 assuring up to $10,000 in aid once the match is met through contributions.

Once open, the 10,000-square-foot Community Market will have expanded hours of operation to better serve hungry Oklahomans in a grocery store-like setting.

“Our goal is to find 100 businesses or groups willing to donate $100 per month toward the market,” Matthews said. “Ultimately, we could feed 2,000 families with that.”

Donations of any size are welcome.

Matthews said, “Together we can say hunger in our community stops with us.”

Avedis Foundation President and CEO Michelle Briggs said the market will employ a point system.

The amount of food is defined by family size and number of points they have.

“For example, if a family has 100 points to spend at the market, bananas may be 1 point, or zero points, whereas a bag of potato chips may be 10 points,” she said. “We can help encourage more healthful options this way.”

Matthews said the problem most have at a typical grocery store is that healthful options seem to always be more expensive, so someone on a strict budget ends up eating less healthy because they can't afford the best choices.

Voskuhl said the community, with this market, can empower people so they can do it the right way.

The client choice food pantry will allow clients to choose the foods they want so that they take only what they need –– making more efficient use of food resources. The center will also stock a variety of food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, protein items and frozen foods and will assist clients with other social services in the community, such as healthy cooking classes.

The Community Market is expected to open in early June, Matthews said.

Current support for the Community Market comes from Avedis, which has invested $750,000 into the Community Market and has also played a vital role in the development of the center, as well as the Regional Food Bank. Community partners include: AARP, Family of Faith Church, Gordon Cooper Technology Center, Mission Shawnee, Oklahoma State University Extension, Salvation Army and United Way.

According to AARP’s Oklahoma Hunger Survey, nearly half (47 percent) of adults in Pottawatomie County has someone in their household who has struggled with hunger, and two thirds (66 percent) say someone close to them had inconsistent access to food. Additionally, 57 percent of adults in Pottawatomie County believe the number of families struggling with hunger in their community has increased since 2012.

The Regional Food Bank is investing in programs, facilities and partnerships that offer opportunities to improve service and feed more hungry Oklahomans. Food & Resources Centers will allow the Regional Food Bank to distribute food to Oklahoma’s hungry in a more efficient and cost-effective manner while connecting those served to resources that provide relief and increase self-sufficiency.

Currently there are several Food & Resources Centers fully operational in the Oklahoma City metro area and in Durant, Enid, Lawton and Elk City, according to a press release.

To make a donation to Community Market, contact Matthews at Ourcommunitymarketpottco@gmail.com or visit ourcommunitymarket.org.

 

Tell me your story ideas. You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.