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State 17th in funding for food programs

In its most recent accounting, the federal government spent the equivalent of $309.30 annually for every Oklahoman on programs designed to curb hunger in the state.

That ranked the state 17th in the nation in money dedicated to 15 federal programs represented by a mouthful of acronyms like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) and TEFAP (The Emergency Foods Assistance Program) administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA's most recent report, in 2016 Oklahoma received a little more than $1.7 billion  $309.30 for each of its 3,903,000 citizens. States that received the most for programs like SNAP and WIC  more than $400 on average per citizen  included New Mexico, Louisiana, Hawaii, Mississippi and Georgia. States that received the least  less than $200 per citizen  included Wyoming, New Hampshire, Utah, Minnesota and North Dakota.

Funding levels were based on measures of food insecurity in each state.

Despite some progress made in reducing food insecurity, millions of Americans surveyed by the USDA report that they sometimes have trouble getting enough to eat. In Oklahoma, food insecurity touches 15.49 percent of households. Nationwide, the average is 12.3 percent of households, according to the USDA.

"In 2016, 87.7 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year. The remaining 12.3 percent of households were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 4.9 percent (6.1 million households) that had very low food security," the USDA report states.

According to the organization Hunger Free America, which compiled and analyzed USDA data collected between 2014 and 2016, food insecurity affects the lives of 11.3 percent of children in Oklahoma, ranking the state among the highest in the nation in that sad category and providing evidence that more households in Oklahoma may struggle with very low food security than households in other states. 

"Parents often shield children from experiencing food insecurity, particularly very low food security," Hunger Free America states in its latest annual report. "In about half of those food-insecure households with children, only the adults experienced food insecurity."

The organization reports that there were 230,444 working adults in Oklahoma who qualified as food insecure in 2016. That amounted to 12.6 percent of working adults in the state. More than 15 million employed adults nationwide  about 10.3 percent  sometimes can't afford food.

"In other words, 15 million U.S. residents worked but still struggled against hunger," the Hunger Free America report states.

Senior citizens in Oklahoma also battle food insecurity at higher rates than counterparts in other states. Sixteen percent of people 60 and older in the Sooner State sometimes don't get enough to eat, as compared to a national average of 15.5 percent. According to the National Council on Aging, nearly one-third of food insecure seniors are disabled, and nearly one in every five seniors helping to raise a grandchild is food insecure. Many live in rural areas.

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