When AARP Oklahoma volunteers from across the state convened on the Capitol for their annual legislative breakfast March 3, what they had on their mind was not on the menu.
Volunteers distributed hundreds of empty paper plates to legislators and the governor to illustrate 700,000 hot meals for senior citizens that were cut by the Department of Human Services in November because of declining state revenues.
AARP says the 30% budget cut, which amounted to $7.4 million dollars, was for fiscal year 2010 which runs from July 1, 2009 to June 31, 2010. The association asserted the cut hurt the state’s most frail and vulnerable residents.
Since late October, AARP led the charge to restore funding for senior nutrition programs beginning with a rally at the State Capitol that attracted more than 400 people. What followed during the ensuing five months was an integrated grassroots and media campaign by the Association to keep the pressure on lawmakers and the governor to find a way to help restore lost meals.
As a result of AARP member’s persistence, lawmakers announced a budget agreement on the afternoon of March 3rd that will restore most of the funding for fiscal year 2011 which starts in July.
"We are extremely pleased that legislators stood strong to make the voices of seniors across Oklahoma heard on the importance of senior nutrition,” said AARP Oklahoma Volunteer State President Marjorie Lyons. “AARP understands in a tight budget year, that everyone has to tighten their belts and that tough choices have to be made, but no budget should ever be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable among us. This deal ensures seniors a seat at the table and we are grateful to all legislators involved."
Watch Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Poteau, and Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, discuss senior nutrition funding on AARP Oklahoma’s Facebook page.
If you are interested in helping advocate on behalf of older Oklahomans, join AARP Oklahoma’s 770 Volunteer Team. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-295-7277.