Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake - June 19, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

One of history’s most famous quotes is attributed to Marie-Antoinette, the young bride of French King Louis XVI. Supposedly, in 1789, when she was told that the French people were without bread, the queen who was likely far removed from the reality of food insecurity, responded, “Let them eat cake.”

Whether an innocent or simply detached remark, it is said to have compounded resentment and ultimately hatred toward Marie-Antoinette and her life of privilege. The queen quickly symbolized a decadent monarchy fueling the revolution that would cause her to (literally) lose her head a few years later.

Unfortunately, food insecurity didn’t end in the 18th century. For nearly forty-five years, our federal government acting pursuant to the Older Americans Act has provided funds for senior nutrition programs across the country. With Oklahoma’s required match being only 15 percent, senior nutrition has proven to be a blessing to the health and well-being of older Oklahomans reducing hunger and food insecurity and promoting socialization.

Except for Social Security and Medicare, perhaps no federal program has yielded a more positive impact on senior citizens than Senior Nutrition. In addition to the congregant meals that are served at nutrition sites in nearly every community in Oklahoma, the program involves thousands of caring volunteers who daily deliver meals to shut-ins through the ADvantage program.

In addition to nutrition, those daily visits provide “well checks” on home-bound adults living alone and are instrumental in allowing thousands of Oklahomans to stay in their own home and not move into nursing homes. In addition to the invaluable nutrition and human contact, federal reimbursement rates for homebound deliveries provide more than $1.50 per meal profit to senior nutrition sites defraying the cost of their continued operations.

Much has been said about the harm to education, roads, fire protection, law enforcement and medical care caused by the decisions of state leaders but cuts to ADvantage and senior nutrition programs leave local nutrition centers without funds to leverage federal dollars. Nutrition centers are at risk of closing if they are unable to find other sources of revenue.

This has been a growing problem over the past few years despite USDA statistics showing that already Oklahoma seniors are 16% more likely to be food insecure than the national average and Oklahoma’s nearly 1 in 5 food insecure seniors ranks us as one of the top ten food insecure states according to the American Public Health Foundation.

When considering that nearly 1 in 4 of Oklahoma’s children are also food insecure, the Oklahoma Food Bank says that Oklahoma consistently ranks among the top 5 states in the number of people who are hungry. It won’t get any better until Oklahoma’s leaders put Oklahoma’s citizens, young and old, ahead of partisan politics.

Some historians believe that Marie-Antoinette did not suggest cake for the starving masses. Without a doubt history will show that in 2016 Oklahoma’s leaders didn’t even suggest crumbs.

Questions and comments are welcome. David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.