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Lunch shaming is real – but we can end it (Guest Post: Effie Craven)

Effie Craven is the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

Imagine you are a child waiting in the school lunch line with your friends.  You laugh and joke as you move through the line and get your trays, enjoying the break from class.  But when you get to the cashier and scan your meal card, there is not enough money for your lunch.  Your tray is taken from you – your hot meal is thrown away and replaced by a cheese sandwich as your classmates look on.

Practices like this, known as lunch shaming, are all too common in schools. And these practices are emotionally damaging to children, who have no control over their family’s financial situation and are often facing food insecurity at home as well. One in four Oklahoma children has inconsistent access to adequate, healthy food. The National School Breakfast and School Lunch Programs provide critical nutrition support to more than 425,000 Oklahoma children every year, but many students are either not eligible or not enrolled in the free and reduced price school meals programs.

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Don’t ask Oklahomans to step down from guiding state agencies (Guest post: RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor)

by | February 8th, 2018 | Posted in Children and Families, Healthcare | Comments (2)

RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor are advocates for families on the DDS (Developmental Disabilities Services) Waiting List.

As parents of adult children with developmental disabilities, we’ve earned seven decades of experience.   We’re familiar with programs and supports other families rarely need: TEFRA, assistive technology, and Medicaid waivers, to name just a few. As family advocates, we’ve served on numerous oversight bodies evaluating state policies that serve family members like ours.  Boards and commissions afford consumers of agency services some decision-making influence.

Yet, as early as this week, legislators are poised to hear a special session bill, HB 1027XX,  that would eliminate boards and commissions at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OKHCA), Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuses Services (ODMHSAS), and several other agencies.  Current boards and commissions would devolve to agency advisory committees with no formal authority. HB 1027 would grant the Governor sole authority to appoint or terminate agency leadership at OKHCA, ODMHSAS, and a half dozen more agencies. This is one of the proposals being promoted by Step Up Oklahoma.

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Hunger by the Numbers: How many football stadiums…

This fall, the US Department of Agriculture released its annual report on household food security, which measures the share of households who don’t have enough food to lead an active, healthy life in the last year. For the three-year period from 2014-16, an average of more than 1 in 7 Oklahoma households, or 15.2 percent of the population, experienced food insecurity, the 8th-highest rate in the nation, tied with Indiana. 

But what does this mean for Oklahoma? Given Oklahoma’s population of 3.92 million, and assuming that households experiencing food insecurity are the same size as the average of all households, this means 595,000 Oklahomans live in households that struggle with basic access to adequate food. 

Now imagine that on a Saturday afternoon this fall, everyone who experienced food insecurity in Oklahoma were all invited down to Norman and Stillwater to attend football games.

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2016 Oklahoma Poverty Profile

Download the 2016 Poverty Profile as a PDF Fact Sheet

624,042 Oklahomans had incomes below the poverty level in 2016.

That’s 16.3 percent of Oklahoma’s population, or about one out of every 6 Oklahomans.

The poverty rate in Oklahoma continues to be above the national average

Since 2008, Oklahoma’s poverty rate has been higher than the national average, and that didn’t change in 2016.  In fact, the gap between Oklahoma and the nation widened a bit in the most recent years.  In 2013, Oklahoma’s poverty rate was 1 percentage point above the national average. Last year, we were 2.3 points above the national average.  In the country as a whole, the poverty rate has been declining since 2012.  But in Oklahoma, the poverty rate increased last year.

OK-US-poverty-rates

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The cost of denying paid sick leave

Am I too sick to work? Can I take the day off? For many Oklahomans, the answer to these questions is usually “no.” Private employers are not required to offer paid sick leave to their employees in Oklahoma. In the last legislative session two bills that would have required paid sick leave in the state were introduced — HB 1310 by Rep. Walke (D-Oklahoma City) and HB 1536 by Rep. Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City). Neither bill was even allowed a vote in their House committees, and that’s unfortunate. Sick leave will be needed by almost all workers at some time – to recover from an illness or to care for a sick child or family member. Denying workers the right to paid sick leave creates big costs for all of us.

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Child abuse prevention and at-home care for seniors are latest services at risk due to shrinking state government (Capitol Update)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

Even with the legislature adjourned, there seems to be no dearth of activity emanating from Oklahoma City. The State Supreme Court has set oral arguments on the constitutional challenge to the cigarette “fee” for August 8, to be heard by the entire court. I haven’t seen the pleadings in the case, but oral arguments are usually among the last things to happen before an appellate court makes its decision. This must mean the Court decided to assume original jurisdiction and rule on the case quickly. Given the importance of the funding to the recently-passed budget and the havoc that would be created if the fee were implemented, then held unconstitutional, it’s a good thing to get the ruling before the fee is set to go into effect on August 25th.

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Interested in disability advocacy? Apply for Partners in Policymaking (Guest post: Amy Smith)

by | June 15th, 2017 | Posted in Children and Families, Upcoming Events | Comments (1)

Amy Smith is a graduate student in Disability Studies, a proud graduate of both Partners in Policymaking and the OK Policy Summer Policy Institute, and is currently a research intern at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.  She lives in Ada with her husband and two of her four children who haven’t flown the coop yet.

2015 Partners in Policymaking class

In one of the few bright spots in an otherwise frustrating Legislative session, advocates for any number of organizations and causes were increasingly visible at the Capitol and statewide. Teams including Together Oklahoma and Let’s Fix This have mobilized advocates through grassroots coalitions and informational resources while groups such as the Oklahoma Education Association and Oklahoma Public Employees Association make noise at the Capitol. Similarly, disability advocates have become more visible through rallies and helping to pass legislation such as the ABLE Act and the Autism Insurance Reform Act.

Many of those disability advocates, myself included, came to the Capitol via Partners in Policymaking, an international program that teaches adults with disabilities, their family members, and the professionals who work with them the skills to become advocates who promote systems change. In Oklahoma, this nine-month program is operated by the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council. Partners students meet one weekend a month to complete a slate of classes on topics including advocacy and grassroots organizing, special education law, sexuality and relationships, guardianship and alternatives, the state and federal legislative process, serving on boards, leadership development, employment, assistive technology, and navigating state and federal service systems.

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Schools use food trucks to fight food insecurity during summer months

Maggie Den Harder is an intern with Oklahoma Policy Institute and a Masters of Public Administration student at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa.

For Oklahoma families who are food-insecure, school meals can be a lifeline. Six in ten students qualify for free or reduced-cost meals at school. These meals offer solid nutrition while alleviating tight household budgets. But hunger doesn’t take a vacation during summer break, and although federal summer meal programs are available, participation in Oklahoma lags badly. However, some Oklahoma school districts have found success by building on a new distribution model: food trucks.

Mobile summer meal delivery isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that’s growing. In Alabama, Mobile County Schools has converted four buses to food trucks with an eat-in area so students can eat in air conditioning. In San Marcos, Texas, the district converted a bus that delivers lunch food to high-need areas. School districts in Delaware, Florida, and Connecticut successfully used food trucks to distribute food to students over the summer, too. With the help of local community partners like food banks and libraries, more students across the nation are gaining access to schools meals during the summer months.

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Extended family leave for new parents would boost economy while addressing some of Oklahoma’s worst health rankings

Too many Oklahoma parents face an impossible choice – continue to work full-time and miss precious opportunities to bond with a new child, or leave work and put their finances and career at risk. Oklahomans shouldn’t face this choice.  New parents should be able to take leave to bond with and care for a new child without putting their family’s future at risk.

Senate Bill 549, which has passed the Senate and is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow in the House Business, Commerce, and Tourism Committee, is a good first step in the modernization of family leave in Oklahoma. [UPDATE: SB 549 passed committee with a 14-0 vote and will next go to the full House.] Under federal law, most American workers are allowed 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, and several states have provided further paid or unpaid leave. SB 549 would extend that to 20 weeks of unpaid leave for Oklahoma’s state employees.

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DHS Director: Oklahoma budget cut scenarios range “from the terrible to the unthinkable”

OKDHS Director Ed Lake

Unless lawmakers find new revenues to close their budget shortfall, Oklahoma is looking at unprecedented cuts to the most basic services of state government, including those for the most vulnerable seniors, children, and people with disabilities. Even before next year’s budget, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) will run out of money in May to pay for in-home care of 25,000 seniors and individuals with severe disabilities unless the Legislature acts quickly to provide supplemental funds.

Yesterday, OKDHS Director Ed Lake sent a message to all employees of the agency stating that further cuts would threaten the elimination of entire programs serving very vulnerable adults and children. The cuts could even undo the progress made under court order to improve our child welfare system. Here is Director Lake’s message in full:

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