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As in Oklahoma, poverty nationwide has moved to the suburbs, report says

In Oklahoma City, a shift in need for food aid and health care reflects the national trend outlined in a new Brookings Institution report.
by William Crum Modified: May 20, 2013 at 10:21 pm •  Published: May 21, 2013

A national report on the changing face of poverty is reflected in an increasing need for food and health care in Oklahoma City's suburbs.

A report by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., says a majority of America's poor now live in the suburbs of its major metropolitan areas.

“The landscape of poverty has changed. But our perceptions and policies really haven't kept pace with that change,” Elizabeth Kneebone, a Brookings fellow, said Monday.

The number of poor residents in the Oklahoma City suburbs increased 41.9 percent between 2000 and 2011, Brookings' report said. From 2000 to 2010, the suburban population increased 14.4 percent.

The report said there were 206,601 poor residents in the metro area — urban and suburban — in 2011.

The urban poor still outnumbered the suburban poor, and the rate at which the number of poor residents in the city grew outpaced the growth of poor residents in the suburbs.

Still, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is responding to a shift in need to the suburbs, said Rodney Bivens, the executive director.

The number of pounds of food distributed has increased 77 percent in the last four years in Edmond, 121 percent in Moore, 86 percent in Yukon, and 466 percent in Midwest City, he said.

The Food Bank has a “backpack” program to send food with elementary-age children as they go home from school on Fridays. School food pantries supply middle and high school students with food for after school, weekends and holidays.

Six years ago, none of those programs were in Edmond, Bivens said. Now the Food Bank has a backpack program in 11 Edmond elementary schools, and food pantries in six middle and high schools.

Needs are similar in other suburbs, he said: “That's true in Midwest City, Yukon and Moore.”

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by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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