Hunger issues remain a concern in Northwest Oklahoma (Woodward News)

By Elise Solloway

Oklahoma has frightening statistics related to poverty and hunger amidst its population of 3,795,764 residents. According to the Center for American Progress, 610,828 Oklahomans were living in poverty in 2015, which contributed to hunger and disease.

Several chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and obesity are linked to hunger. “In short, food insecurity harms the health and financial security of our state,” according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute ( web site.

So who is hungry in Northwest Oklahoma? Statistics from Families Helping Families show that one in six, or 656,000, Oklahomans struggle with hunger. 2,750 people are hungry in Woodward County. One in four children wonder from where their next meal is coming. 67% of client households have incomes that fall at or below the Federal Poverty line.


Families Helping Families was founded in 2001 to make a difference in the lives of Northwest Oklahomans suffering from food insecurity, making them choose between paying rent and utilities or buying food for the family. Families Helping Families is launching a capital campaign for the new Hope Center that will continue the same mission except that it will have its own building, equipment, and resources to better serve Northwest Oklahoma families in need.

“During the 2015 calendar year, Families Helping Families distributed food 4,831 times to clients in need. This breaks down to meeting the needs of 9,687 adults and 5,516 children,” said Kurt Mortensen from Families Helping Families Food Bank and Hope Center. “Over 800,000 pounds of food, valuing $1.3 million, was distributed to families in need. This equals 533,333 meals for hungry Northwestern Oklahoma residents.

“What we have seen this year is a tremendous growth in need for families in this area. September 2016 we assisted 555 households, 1054 adults and 562 children. We also received 47 new applications for assistance.”

“Hunger is a serious problem in Northwest Oklahoma. It not only affects adults, but our children are greatly affected as well. The J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation believes so much in what we are doing, that we are the first agency, in Northwest Oklahoma, to receive funding from the Foundation in eight years. But the community’s support is crucial in meeting the challenge grant,” said Eric W. Cox, chairman of Families Helping Families Food Bank and Hope Center. “This is dramatically going to improve the way we combat hunger and make a difference in the lives of Northwest Oklahomans.”

“In order to reach the financial goal of this grant, Families Helping Families is launching “Raising Hope” that will allow the move to take place.

“The goal of “Raising Hope” is to secure $209,100.00 in donations. Once that goal is met the L.E. Mabee Foundation will give a matching gift of $170,00.00. That matching gift along with the $209,100.00 will allow us to get into the new building and begin construction,” Mortensen said.

“We are on a deadline of April 2017 to raise the needed funds. The entire turn-key goal needed to put the Hope Center into operation is $1,039,100. Once the $209,100.00 is raised, and the matching gift is given, we will only have the $175,000 left for the operational side of things, for the first year of operation left to raise. The Hope Center will allow us to better serve the people in Woodward and the surrounding communities,” Mortensen said.

Features of the new Hope Center facility:

* Provide a greater quantity of nutritious food to underserved populations in order to improve health outcomes

* Extend hours of operation over multiple days a week

* Create a client-choice shopping experience

* 64-person waiting room to allow clients to wait inside

* Provide other client-based services like legal aid, case management, health screenings, nutrition education, financial resources and more.


Businesses, churches, organizations, families, and individuals are encouraged to help make the Hope Center a reality by giving cash and/or in-kind donations for the “Raising Hope” campaign within the next six months.

To learn more about Hope Center, schedule a Hope Center presentation for your group or organization, or to set up a tour of the new facility, you may contact Kurt Mortenson at (405) 779-6251. To connect with Hope Center’s Facebook page go to

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