Innovative "Farm to Food Bank" Pilot Project is Feeding Hungry Oklahomans & Improving the Soil

On Friday August 25, Congressman Frank Lucas visited a participating farm in the "Farm to Food Bank" pilot project. The project is dedicated to fighting hunger while conserving natural resources. The project utilizes conservation practices that improve the health of the soil to produce edible cover crops for local food banks.

On Friday, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-3) and State Representative Mike Sanders (HD-59) visited the first "Farm to Food Bank" site in Leedey, OK. The farm is owned and operated by current Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts President, Jimmy Emmons and his wife, Ginger. The Emmons planted 4.5 acres of cover crops and have donated more than 3,000 pounds of fresh produce to local food banks in Vici and Elk City.

Congressman Lucas praised the project and stated: "Everybody in this partnership is doing the right things for the right reasons.Hopefully, what has started in Leedey, Oklahoma can spread across the United States."  
The Farm to Food Bank project is made possible through a public/private partnership among the United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS)*, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, and Green Cover Seed.  

"Cover crops along with no-till are part of a soil health system that allows farmers and ranchers to be successful. This project is another example of private land owners voluntarily helping conserve our natural resources," stated Gary O'Neill, USDA-NRCS, State Conservationist.

The Farm to Food Bank project is producing fresh vegetables that are staples of a healthy diet. Fresh produce, such as that produced in this project, squash, okra, cucumbers, watermelons, green beans, and peas are very much needed by the Food Banks.

"This pilot project is a win-win. For the health of the soil and the health of our needy neighbors," said Dave Wattenbarger, manager of regional giving for the, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. "Projects like Farm to Food Bank help us meet the demand for fresh food in Oklahoma."  

One in six Oklahomans has inconsistent access to food, which can lead to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases. As a result, Oklahoma ranks among the 10 worst states for many key health indicators, including cardiovascular and diabetes deaths.
Among households served by the Oklahoma Food Banks:

  • 33 percent of client households have a member(s) with diabetes
  • 57 percent of client households have a member(s) with high blood pressure
  • 24 percent have a household member in poor health
  • 63 percent have medical bills to pay
  • 32 percent lack health insurance of any kind
  • 83 percent of client households report purchasing the cheapest food available, even if they knew it wasn't the healthiest option, in an effort to provide enough food for their household
  • 66 percent had to choose between food and medicine/medical care

Last fiscal year, the Regional Food Bank and Community Food Bank distributed more than 73.1 million pounds of food and products through a network of more than 1,700 charitable feeding programs and schools across Oklahoma.