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Supporting The Safety Net: Examining Poverty In Oklahoma

Oklahoma Policy Institute

Census Bureau data released in September show that one in six Oklahomans were a part of a family falling below the poverty line - $19,090 for a three-person household. The figures analyzed by the Oklahoma Policy Institute show 23.8 percent of Oklahoma children live in poverty, an increase of 1.7 percent over the last five years.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, helped feed 615,000 Oklahomansin 2012. Eileen Bradshaw, the Executive Director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, says there’s a tightrope to walk between having enough food, but also finding food with high nutritional quality.

“I had one of my partner programs call me saying, ‘You’re killing me with fresh produce. Bring back the canned green beans, because I don’t have the refrigeration,’” Bradshaw says. “And then I had somebody say, ‘You’re killing America with your canned green beans. Give us more fresh produce.’”

Former House Speaker Kris Steele (R-Shawnee) now serves as the Executive Director of The Education and Employment Ministry (TEEM), a nonprofit specializing in reducing poverty, unemployment and homelessness in the greater Oklahoma City area.

Steele said the stereotype that those impacted by poverty are lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to learn is a myth.

“Most individuals who are impacted by poverty are very intelligent and adapt at surviving,” Steele says. “They are able to knit resources together, they know where those resources exist, and how to access those resources so they can make it through another day.”

Steele and Bradshaw spoke on a panel addressing poverty and the safety net during the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Summer Policy Institute.


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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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