Stamping out hunger 

A warehouse worker grabs a box of bananas from a palet in the warehouse at Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.  mh
  • A warehouse worker grabs a box of bananas from a palet in the warehouse at Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. mh
Companies that package food are becoming more efficient.

That’s good for the bottom line but bad for Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

“All the producers are getting better at not making errors,” said Angie Gaines, director of marketing and communications for the food bank. “Which is great for them, but that also means we are down in our donations.”

One of the food bank’s sources of donations comes from mislabeled food items. The decrease in mislabeled products, along with a drop in donations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s commodities program (The Emergency Food Assistance Program), have left the food bank with a shortage of nearly 3.4 million pounds of food compared to last year.

“We are essentially down 2.8 million meals,” Gaines said.

The drop in donations have left some shelves empty in the food bank’s 90,000-square-foot distribution center, which makes this year’s Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive even more critical.

This week, residents across central Oklahoma were given plastic donation bags by mail carriers. On Saturday, mail carriers will pick up any bags that have been left at the front door with donated food items inside.

“Typically, we collect 800,000 to a million pounds of food from [the food drive],” Gaines said. “So that’s going to help close that gap.”

Drops in the USDA and mislabeled product donations are likely to remain, so Gaines said community donations will play an even bigger part in helping the food bank meet its yearly goals.

“Turning to the community for more donations is probably the solution,” Gaines said.

The food bank distributed nearly 48 million pounds of food last year, a new record. The need is expected to continue to rise as one in six Oklahomans struggles with hunger, Gaines said.

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