The Pryor Times

March 19, 2013

Anti-hunger measure approved by House

State Representative
Ben Sherrer

— The first cycle of the legislative session concluded Thursday with frantic activity and late nights as we considered as many bills as possible before the deadline for House bills to be sent to the Senate. Last week I wrote about the Home Bakery Act. In keeping with a food theme, this week I write about the Josephine Meade Anti-Hunger Act.

During recent budget cuts senior nutrition programs were hit pretty hard and our local programs felt the impact. Fortunately local communities and churches stepped up to help. But this crisis brought to light some bureaucratic regulations with negative collateral effects on these programs.

One of the issues brought to my attention was the quantity of consumable food thrown out by restaurants and delicatessens. Owners/managers would often like to donate to senior centers and shelters serving the needy but often don’t because of confusion regarding food security, regulatory, and liability issues.  Senior nutrition policies don’t even allow food to be taken away from the centers.

Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-Okla. City) and his assistant Jacklyn Brink-Rosen, worked hard to respond to these concerns. They put together extensive research on the issues and hosted an interim study wherein the legislature received input from DHS, the Restaurant Association, as well as the non-profit NEEDS Foundation. The result was the crafting of the Josephine Meade Anti-Hunger Act, which was passed by the legislature this deadline week. Josephine Meade for whom the bill is named, was an anti-hunger fighter during the Great Depression and many of her family now live in Oklahoma.

But here’s what the bill actually does: House Bill 1418 specifically directs the Department of Human Services to promulgate rules that will allow unused portions and leftovers to be taken from the center. For now, this will apply to non-perishable foods including fruits, vegetables and breads. In addition, the measure brings clarity for restaurants, grocers and bakeries with guidelines for compliance with the Food Safety Packaging and Labeling Act of 2004 – which has been viewed as an impediment to receipt/distribution of donated food from commercial operators.

On occasion the legislature gets it right – and this is one of the occasions. That’s why I’m proud to be a co-author of the measure. The Josephine Meade Act advances the sound policies of meeting senior citizens’ nutritional needs and being a good steward of food resources available through the private sector.

It is an honor to carry your vote in the legislature and a responsibility I take very serious. Please contact me with questions or concerns about any issue pending in the legislature. I can be reached at bensherrer or (800) 522-8502.  Until next week, God bless you.