Mom's timeless admonition not to waste food because kids are going hungry in Africa needs an update. Those hungry kids may be just down the street.
In Oklahoma and around the country, the number of school-age children who qualify for free or reduced lunches continues to grow. Presently in Oklahoma, 59 percent of all public school students fall into that category. In the Oklahoma City school district, the figure is 83.5 percent.
Oklahoma is the fourth-hungriest state in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A year ago we ranked No. 8. As the director of a Tulsa food pantry told the Tulsa World, the typical person going hungry in our state is changing "from the dirty little girl stereotype to the family next door."
The hunger statistics dovetail with those regarding poverty. In the United States, the number of people living in poverty last year could approach 15 percent — 20 percent for children — when Census figures are released this week. In the past five years, state officials have seen a stunning 870 percent increase in the number of homeless students in Oklahoma.
The state's two regional food banks are dealing with record demand from their member pantries. Food-stamp usage continues to increase.
Poverty has been with us forever, of course, and there are no short-term solutions. Long term, education and policies that lead to job creation ought to be the goal. Meantime, this is an issue that ought to concern everyone who cares about the collective welfare of their fellow Oklahomans.