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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Regional food bank distributes record amount

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma distributed a record 6.2 million pounds of food in April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release.

On average, the organization distributes 4.7 million pounds per month.

"We are very proud of our network of partner agencies in central and western Oklahoma that have stepped up to find innovative ways to serve their neighbors in need of food assistance," said Deb Bunting, the regional food bank's interim CEO. "As the state begins to reopen, we anticipate the need for food assistance to remain at high levels due to the economic toll caused by the pandemic."

The Regional Food Bank reported that nearly 300 community based partner agencies remain open and are providing food assistance in central and western Oklahoma. Agencies have reported increases of between 25% and 50% in new households served during the pandemic.According to the release, agencies have moved to a drive-thru distribution model to ensure the safety of volunteers and the individuals being served. The Regional Food Bank has partnered with EMBARK, the Community Action Agency of Oklahoma City and Bonnie's Helping Hands to deliver emergency food boxes to homebound seniors.

"Partnerships and innovation are integral to our mission of providing meals to an increased number of our neighbors impacted by COVID-19 and living with food insecurity in Oklahoma," Bunting said.

To make a financial donation, visit rfbo.org/give or by calling 405-972-1111. If you are in need of food assistance, visit rfbo.org/get-help and enter a zip code to find the Regional Food Bank partner nearest you or call 405-972-1111.

Nursing homes to receive millions in federal aid

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday that it has started distributing 231 payments totaling about $77.5 million to skilled nursing facilities in Oklahoma to help combat the "devastating effects" of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding, which supplements previously announced provider relief funds, will be used to support nursing homes suffering from significant expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19, according to a news release."This funding secured by President Trump will help nursing homes keep the seniors they care for safe during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. "The Trump administration is providing every resource we can, from funding and direct PPE shipments to regulatory flexibility and infection control consultations, to protect seniors in nursing homes and those who care for them."

Visit hhs.gov/providerrelief for additional information.

USDA approves online food buys

Federal food stamp recipients in Oklahoma can now buy groceries online, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported this week. The USDA approved the state's request to provide online food purchases, according to a news release.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, helps nearly 40 million low-income Americans afford food.

"Oklahoma’s approval of expanding SNAP online purchasing is great news to those who use SNAP to feed their families and producers and small businesses who are providing for their neighbors," said Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne.

Lucas, the former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, authored the 2014 Farm Bil, which included a pilot program for purchasing food online.

"As we continue to safely and responsibly practice social distancing, this new pilot program will help Oklahomans continue to stay safe as they order their groceries online and use curbside pick-up," he said. "As one of the members who helped enact this pilot program, I’m excited to see the wonderful benefits this brings about to my fellow Oklahomans."

The USDA has expanded SNAP online purchasing to 36 states and the District of Columbia in the past six weeks, according to the release.

Visit hhs.gov/providerrelief for additional information.

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