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For The Children Weekly Column

A Final Chance to Advocate to Lawmakers

April 25, 2022

 

“For the Children” Weekly Column by Joe Dorman, OICA CEO

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

Telephone: (405) 833-1117

Email: jdorman@oica.org

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) holds its Fall Forum, our annual policy conference, allowing advocates to gather and discuss policies to improve the state for our youngest residents.

Fall Forum provides important insight into issues impacting children. Youth programs share their experiences and expertise, and the event is open to all who would like to learn about policy work. The discussions are always exceptional.

The 2021 Fall Forum recommended a pair of ideas related to grocery shopping. Lawmakers have worked on both ideas during the current legislative session and OICA is pleased with their progress.

The first issue is the sales tax on groceries. It is encouraging to see bipartisan support for this effort, with both Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, a Republican from Oklahoma City, and House Democratic Leader Emily Virgin of Norman, presenting similar bills to eliminate the state grocery tax.

Both lawmakers, along with the others involved with this effort, have taken into consideration concerns from the Oklahoma Municipal League about the potentially devastating impact on cities if local grocery sales taxes also were eliminated. Municipal services depend on sales taxes charged on purchases within their boundaries

Another initiative on the purchase of groceries would help Oklahomans who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits. Fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive compared to similar canned items, but fresh produce is much healthier without added salt or sugar found in canned items.

Our partners at Hunger Free Oklahoma have run a program over the past few years called Double Up Oklahoma. The program provides a voucher for SNAP consumers to assist with the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables – doubling their buying power for these healthy options.

This initiative, primarily privately funded, receives federal support and successfully encourages the purchase of healthier fresh produce. The result is better eating habits for SNAP families and increased sales of fresh fruits and vegetables at local grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Attendees to both OICA’s Fall Forum and The Oklahoma Academy, a statewide gathering of leaders reviewing policies and suggesting solutions, placed support for Double Up Oklahoma among their legislative recommendations for 2022. OICA is pleased to work with Hunger Free Oklahoma and The Academy to support opportunities to reduce the consumption of junk food and replace it with fresh fruits and vegetables, often grown by local farmers in our communities.

These, and other issues, will be decided soon. The Oklahoma Legislature must adjourn by the final Friday in May, but they will likely end by the third week of May.

OICA will hold a final in-person push for bills our advocates have championed on Thursday, May 5. We are partnering with our friends from the Coalition of Advocates to hold a morning meet-and-greet with lawmakers to discuss these issues and other concerns.

We also will hold an advocacy training in-person and on Facebook Live, so those new to the process will learn best practices when asking for legislative action on policies. Space will be limited due to the size of the room, so if you would like to join us for either the breakfast or the training, RSVP to https://tinyurl.com/May5Advocacy to be included.

We need you there! Far too often, policies receive little attention from the public and one or two voices can make the difference between passage or failure. You can make a difference!

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