Oklahoma food bank director warns against food stamp cuts

Testifying before a U.S. House subcommittee, Rodney Bivens, who runs Oklahoma's largest food bank, says more people would go hungry if food stamp benefits are cut because private charities can't make up the difference.
by Chris Casteel Published: May 9, 2012

Food banks in the United States would not be able to compensate for deep cuts to the federal food stamp program, and more people would go hungry, the head of Oklahoma's largest food bank told U.S. House members on Tuesday.

“We're at a point right now where we can't afford to cut benefits” to food stamp recipients, Rodney Bivens, founder and executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, said at a Capitol Hill hearing.

“We are absolutely stretched to our limits already trying to keep up with current demand,” Bivens told the House Agriculture subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture.

The Oklahoma Regional Food Bank operates in 53 of the state's 77 counties and distributed more than 46 million pounds of food last year.

Despite Oklahoma's relatively low unemployment rate, demand for emergency food assistance has increased 30 to 50 percent in some areas, Bivens said.

In the past year, donated food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has declined by 51 percent because high commodity prices have decreased government purchases, he said.

The House is expected to take up legislation this week that includes $33 billion in spending cuts over 10 years to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is commonly referred to as the food stamp program.

The House Agriculture Committee, led by Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, approved those cuts last month and is now working to incorporate them into a long-term farm bill.

Multiyear farm bills include nutrition programs because they are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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