OU student-athletes partner with libraries to raise awareness for childhood hunger

Apr. 23—On Saturday, 15 student-athletes from the University of Oklahoma will host read-alouds across six Pioneer Library System locations.

In partnership with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and The Sooner Nation Collective, a name, image and likeness collective that pays student-athletes for working with local charities, athletes from OU's football, basketball, golf and volleyball programs will read a picture book written to help children understand food insecurity.

The book, Erik Talkin's "Lulu and the Hunger Monster," is intended to teach children ages 5-9 about the challenges of hunger and the importance of community support.

"It is our hope that children will connect to a story about someone they recognize and can relate to," said Stacy Dykstra, CEO of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. "Hopefully, they will learn more about empathy and how they can help a classmate experiencing food insecurity."

The six participating library locations are:

* Norman Public Library East, 3051 E. Alameda St.

* Norman Public Library West, 300 Norman Center Court

* Library Lab, 121 S. Santa Fe Ave., Suite 119, Norman

* Southwest Oklahoma City Public Library, 2201 SW. 134th St.

* Moore Public Library, 225 S. Howard Ave.

* Purcell Public Library, 919 N. 9th Ave.

Storytime begins at 11 a.m. in each location.

"This partnership presents a tremendous opportunity to address food insecurity through the influential power of reading and sports," said Will Merrick, Pioneer Library System Foundation development officer. "It's a powerful way to engage with young Oklahomans, who look up to OU's student-athletes as heroes."

According to a 2023 study performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oklahoma has the sixth-highest rate of hunger in the country. Researchers from Oklahoma State University Family and Consumer Sciences Cooperative Extension report one in four children in the state is food insecure.

Dykstra said Oklahoma's high rates of hunger make it all the more important to spread greater awareness within communities.

"Anytime we can share what facing hunger looks like and how others can help is a win," she said. "Working with the Pioneer Library System and the student-athletes through the Sooner Nation Collective is a great example of how working together can make a difference."