Lights dangled in a light breeze at Midtown’s Bleu Garten on Oct. 15, as downtown joggers and couples with dogs arrived at the bar/park/food truck hub to unwind. Adrian Young of the Made Possible By Us non-profit was making the rounds, collecting donations as part of a fundraising campaign that would eventually seek to benefit the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
Young has combined a public service with a social activity that’s becoming an everyday lifestyle here: patronizing food trucks. Through a crowd-sourcing campaign and sizable donations from Whole Foods, she hopes to build a new kind of food truck. Once a month, the Food For All Truck would offer food and nutrition education to at-risk children. In addition, all proceeds from the truck’s commercial food sales would go to the food bank. With a Nov. 6 deadline fast approaching, she said she is halfway to her goal.
During initial market research conducted via Twitter under #WhatifOKC, more than 1,000 respondents indicated hunger topped their list of social concerns. Young said she decided on adding the crowd-sourcing component to unite the community with business partners First National Bank and Whole Foods.
“People really want to feel their specific contribution matters to be able to see a tangible outcome for their investment,” Young said. “They want their contribution to be aligned with a value they share. So we worked to shape a project that suits all those wants as our way to deliver what our community would see as worthy.”
Made Possible By Us’s campaign links them with A Good Egg Dining Group, which will source volunteer chefs and creative cooks who are also good with kids, said Lauren Kerby, team member specialist at Good Egg.
If the public-funding goal is met to build it (with some additional help from First National Bank), the Food For All Truck is slated to hit the streets in March 2016. A Good Egg Dining Group will contribute cooks, and Whole Foods will contribute subsidized food supplies to the service.
A goal aligned with the food bank
The food bank does a lot of unheralded work in a state that consistently ranks in the top 10 for food insecurity, with one in six Oklahomans struggling with hunger. That includes one in four children.
To help make it possible for families to eat better, the food bank introduced its Fresh RX program two years ago, said Angie Doss, director of marketing and communications. Fresh Food Mobile Markets provide fresh produce in under-served areas and food deserts once per month in eight locations. Each Fresh Food Mobile Market provides clients an average of 27 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Through this program last fiscal year, 520,477 pounds of fresh produce was distributed to clients, Doss said. The food bank hired a full-time Americorp cook whose focus is food nutrition exhibitions. Healthy Living Pantry Boxes can be prescribed by health care professionals to children with needs arising from hypertension and diabetes. The food bank also started an Urban Harvest program where 93 percent of the produce harvested went to Food for Kids programs.
The food bank launched the Food & Resource Center pilot program in 2012 to address Oklahomans struggling with hunger. The Centers provide client-choice shopping; greater access to food; extended hours and days of operation; increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables to improve health.
Food & Resource Centers are designed to be self-supporting. The food bank supports the centers with ongoing training, capacity building, and priority access to food and equipment grants, as well as guidance on fundraising, marketing and volunteer management.
At the end of fiscal year 2015, four Food & Resource Centers are fully operational in the Oklahoma City metro area: City Rescue Mission, Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command, Skyline Urban Ministry and Urban Mission.
Five Food & Resources centers are located outside of the metro: Hands of Hope (Durant), HELP, Inc. (Elk City), Lawton Food Bank (Lawton), Loaves & Fishes, NW Oklahoma (Enid) and Moore Food & Resource Center (Moore).