OKLAHOMA CITY - The Board of Directors for the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement and Endowment Trust have approved funding for new programs that will increase Oklahomans' access to nutritious food as the state addresses the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The coronavirus pandemic has shown that prevention is more important than ever for public health. Those with underlying conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart or lung disease, are more likely to experience serious complications and death from the coronavirus," said TSET Board of Directors Chair Bruce Benjamin. "The TSET Board of Directors approved investment in ensuring that Oklahomans have access to healthy food at a time when too many of our neighbors are struggling to feed their families. We are investing in building healthier communities in the areas where we see the greatest health disparities, and we're investing in Oklahoma's future by helping youth develop healthy habits at a young age."

Funding set aside to address food security creates a new opportunity for projects that could include support for food access and distribution systems in Oklahoma or other programs that increase access to nutritious foods. The board allocated up to $1 million to be awarded for short-term projects.

Food insecurity, already a problem in Oklahoma, has worsened since the coronavirus pandemic began. At the end of April, more than one in five households in the United States, and two in five households with mothers with children 12 and under, were food insecure, according to preliminary national surveys.

Potential funding recipients could include nonprofits providing services in Oklahoma, state and local government organizations, and tribal nations already working in the food security arena. Additional information on the funding opportunity will be forthcoming.

The Board also awarded nearly $7 million to 35 organizations serving 37 counties through the TSET Healthy Living Program 2.0 program. The new grant program will begin July 1.

Area recipients of the TSET Healthy Living Program 2.0 grant include: Cherokee County Health Services Council, $220,000; Cherokee Nation, $220,000; and People Inc., $168,273.

"The second generation of TSET Healthy Living Program takes a comprehensive, community approach to health and looks for ways for targeted high-impact interventions," said TSET Executive Director Julie Bisbee. "This initiative builds on years of success through multiple community based programs funded by TSET. It places a laser focus on communities with the greatest need."

The five-year grants, renewable annually, will support communities in developing strategies, programs and policies to improve health by preventing or reducing tobacco use, improving nutrition, and increasing physical activity in an effort to decrease premature death in Oklahoma. The program prioritizes work in communities where health risk factors - tobacco use, poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyle - are among the highest.

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