Organizations reach out to provide food assistance
Organizations across the Oklahoma City metropolitan area are working together to provide food to unemployed and underemployed Oklahomans, and one of those organizations has reached out to residents filing for unemployment benefits.
Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma employees distributed boxes of food at Rose State College Wednesday to people waiting in line for help with unemployment claims at the nearby Reed Conference Center in Midwest City.
For several days, unemployed Oklahomans have waited, sometimes for hours, to get help with their unemployment benefits. Some are struggling to access food, said Cathy Nestlen, director of strategic communications for the food bank.
Food bank employees gave away boxes of canned goods, dairy products, and frozen meats in a drive-thru event. Workers passed out flyers to those applying for unemployment benefits to inform them about the distribution event, Nestlen said.
Drivers are able to pick up food boxes for multiple households. By noon Wednesday, food bank employees had provided boxes to roughly 50 households, Nestlen said. Food bank volunteers will also distribute food at the site Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Over the course of the two-day event, workers plan to serve 500 households.
Not everyone who is filing for unemployment is having difficulty obtaining food, but some applicants might need assistance soon, Nestlen said.
“People who have needed it are very, very thankful that this food assistance is available, and that’s one of the reasons we’re out here as well,” Nestlen said.
Nestlen encourages Oklahomans in the food bank’s 53-county service area who need assistance to call the food bank at 405-972-111 or visit the organization’s website at www.rfbo.org/gethelp. Applicants can enter their five-digit ZIP code and find food pantries near them. The food bank works with more than 300 partner agencies in its service area to distribute food.
Nestlen said she hopes Oklahomans who need food know that the food bank is able to help them.
Cookies donated to United Way
After the organization’s selling season was curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma donated thousands of boxes of cookies to the United Way of Central Oklahoma.
United Way staffers will distribute about 18,000 boxes of the cookies to local food pantries and nonprofit programs in central Oklahoma that are helping individuals who are struggling to buy food due to COVID-19.
Skyline Urban Ministries is one of the agencies that will help distribute the cookies, along with other food items, like dairy products, meats, and non-perishable food items, said Debby Hampton, president and CEO of United Way of Central Oklahoma. United Way gave 3,000 boxes of cookies to Skyline.
Shannon Evers, CEO of Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma, said Girl Scouts worked hard to collect donations for the United Way.
“We’re excited to be able to kind of take a worst-case scenario with COVID-19 that cut our cookie [sales] short and left us with a lot of cookies left over,” Evers said.
The Rev. Debbie Ingraham, CEO of Skyline, said her organization has provided food boxes to more than 100 families per day for five days a week since the pandemic began. Each food box — which contains meats, fresh produce, and other food items — will contain at least two boxes of Girl Scout cookies.
“Those cookies are going to folks who didn’t have the opportunity or couldn’t afford the cookies, so it is a great luxury, and we are very excited to be able to deliver those,” Ingraham said.
Skyline staffers distribute food boxes at their office, 500 SE 15 in Oklahoma City, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays. Staffers also deliver food boxes to those who are in quarantine and those who do not have access to transportation. Families can pick up a new box every 30 days.
The head of the household seeking assistance from Skyline will need to show a photo ID to Skyline workers, and provide documents showing place of residency, including utility bills or rent receipts.
Hampton encourages anyone needing assistance due to COVID-19 to contact Heartline, a crisis services center, via phone at 211. Heartline workers will connect people with non-profit agencies who can help them, Hampton said.
“It’s kind of that one-stop, to start with, so you don’t have the frustration of going to agency after agency, and they really are — and always have been — our go-to agency as it results in any type of emergency assistance,” Hampton said. “They’re really the 911 of social services.”
Heartline has taken more than 25,000 calls related to COVID-19, Hampton said.
Skyline can be reached by phone at 405-632-2644 or online at https://www.skylineurbanministry.org.