TSET wants to address food insecurity in state

Julie Bisbee Executive Director
Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust

Can you imagine running out of food before your next paycheck? Or pulling together a meal for your family from items sold at a convenience store?

For 1 out of 6 households in Oklahoma, this is an everyday reality. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, food insecurity was one of the most significant challenges facing our state’s families and individuals. The COVID-19 crisis has only magnified the need to make nutritious food available to Oklahoma’s most food-insecure residents.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust has quickly responded to this urgent need. At a recent meeting, the TSET Board of Directors approved up to $1 million to be awarded for short-term projects to address food insecurity. The coronavirus pandemic has shown that prevention is more important than ever for public health. Increasing access to healthy food is key to giving Oklahomans the tools to make healthy choices.

Food insecurity is a health risk linked to costly and preventable chronic diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, cancer and stroke. TSET is one of the state’s largest funders of prevention and works to address long-term needs and encourage healthy choices. Health disparities, such as lack of buying power or lack of access to healthy foods, can limit the choices of some Oklahomans.

The recent economic downturn has made it even more difficult for families to have enough food to eat. Almost 41% of mothers with children ages 12 and under reported household insecurity since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to early national survey data analyzed by the Brookings Institution.

Proper nutrition is vital to good health. Access and availability of nutritious food are key components in helping Oklahomans reduce risk factors for chronic disease, obesity, as well as building a foundation of healthy habits for future generations.

To help close the gaps, TSET is seeking to partner with non-profit groups, sovereign political entities, and state and local government organizations to address food insecurity. Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing details about funding opportunities that will seek to enhance the availability of nutritious foods across regional or statewide service areas. More information will be available at tset.ok.gov.