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Community Members Help Tulsa Food Bank Fight Hunger

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Waggoner rallied her troops one last time, appealing to the community for emergency help. Waggoner rallied her troops one last time, appealing to the community for emergency help.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

The New Year will usher in a big change for the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. After 21 years at the helm, Sara Waggoner is moving on. News on Six Anchor Terry Hood sat down with her and found out she's left a final gift for the community.

"Sometimes it's real exciting, because I'm looking forward to some new challenges. But most of the time it's still pretty sad," Waggoner said.

Sara Waggoner never imagined her time in Tulsa would stretch to 21 years. And she never imagined how much would be accomplished in those two decades.

In 1990, the Food Bank had eight employees and distributed about three million pounds of food. Now, there's a new building, 48 employees, thousands of volunteers, and last year, the food distribution was just shy of 17 million pounds.

But beyond the numbers, Waggoner says the people receiving the food have changed, too.

"There were hardly any families that we ever saw in the emergency program. And now, 42 percent of the people are kids. The vast majority are families," Waggoner said.

Those aren't national statistics. That's happening right here in eastern Oklahoma. In fact, we're now tied with Arkansas as the hungriest state in the union, despite a relatively low unemployment rate.

"You're right. Our unemployment rate is lower than the national average. It's pay. It's the amount of money people make versus what it takes to be self-sufficient," Waggoner said.

Waggoner believes that's why the work of the food bank is more crucial than ever. It's a service that fills stomachs and opens possibilities.

"If we can give them food from our emergency pantry, then they can go to the doctor. They can get gas in the car to go to work. They can pay the utility bill," Waggoner said.

But the challenge became even greater this year. Federal subsidiaries and private donations were down, food prices were up.

So Waggoner rallied her troops one last time, appealing to the community for emergency help.

It worked.

"So in one quarter, by just going out and working hard and asking people to dig a little deeper, we're looking at three million pounds more than we were at three months ago. And that makes me happy," Waggoner said.

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