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Rural food pantries struggle to keep up with demand in Oklahoma

rural food pantry
Posted at 4:49 PM, Sep 14, 2023

NOWATA, Okla. — According to Oklahoma Human Services, 500,000 Oklahomans are experiencing food insecurity. Nearly half of those are children.

Many Green County rural communities struggle for access to a food pantry or other food-providing organizations.

Aim High Food Pantry is one of two food pantries in Nowata that's always busy. They served around 200 people on Thursday, but come November and December, the founder tells 2 News those numbers could be upwards of 500 or 600 per day.

Things are typically quiet in Nowata County - a population of 9,000.

Except Aim High Food Pantry. It's always bustling.

Carolyn Littlefield said she started the pantry three years ago because the need was great.

"We never imagined it would grow to these numbers. We served 476 families last month," Littlefield said.

They only have room to serve Nowata County residents, and they're pleading for more volunteers to serve demand.

Most of the food comes from donations, the Tulsa food bank, and, in many cases, out of Littlefield's pocket.

"Our portion of what goes into this food pantry is like 64 % of our annual budget, and the rest of it is contributions," she said.

According to Hunger Free Oklahoma, 33% of Oklahomans live in a low-income, low-access community - meaning they lack adequate access to nutritious food. 32% of rural households live with limited food access.

"When you do something to help others, at the end of the day, we feel so much more blessed than the people that are receiving the food," Littlefield said.

When Littlefield's not running the pantry or buying and picking up food, she and her husband deliver to nearby communities. According to Hunger Free Oklahoma stats, she knows that 14.5% of Oklahoma households are food insecure.

"The sad thing is, a lot of the food pantries like this are closing down right now because of the lack of supply of food that's out there," Littlefield said.

Times are difficult. But Littlefield's aiming high.

Aim High Food Pantry is actively seeking volunteers to keep up with increasing demand. If you like to, call them at 918-520-2137. Or you can go to okfoodbank.org to find a food pantry to volunteer at near you.


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