Kids 18 and under eat free all summer
OKLAHOMA CITY– In Oklahoma, nearly 62 percent of public school students are eligible for free and reduced-priced lunches. During the summer months when school is not in session, only 6.4 percent of those same students participate in summer feeding programs, ranking Oklahoma 51st in the nation.
To that end, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister today announced the launch of #FoodforThought, a public awareness campaign by the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) and its Office of Child Nutrition to significantly increase the number of free meals served to Oklahoma kids 18 and under during the federally funded Summer Food Service Program.
Hofmeister announced the initiative at the kickoff event for Tulsa Public Schools’ summer meals program at Disney Elementary in east Tulsa. Sixty-seven Tulsa Public Schools sites are serving summer meals this summer.
The #FoodforThought campaign emerged from collaboration between Hofmeister and her Faith-Based Advisory Council, one of several stakeholder groups with whom the superintendent meets regularly. The advisory council expressed an interest in partnering with OSDE on an initiative that would make a difference in their communities. Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the nation. Food insecurity exists when a population has limited or uncertain access to safe, nutritional food or an inability to acquire it. An estimated 1 in 4 Oklahoma children – 220,000 in all – are considered food insecure, and research indicates that students who struggle with hunger have poorer academic and health outcomes than those who do not.
“As a state, it is critical that we work together to provide healthy meals to as many hungry Oklahoma children as we can during summer,” Hofmeister said. “The #FoodforThought campaign, in conjunction with the efforts of our Faith-Based Advisory group and hundreds of partner sponsors and sites around the state, will help ensure that a significantly higher percentage of our children and young people have nutrition supports this summer that will strengthen their ability to learn when school starts again in the fall.”
The summer meals program offers convenience to families; the vast majority of Oklahoma’s more than 600 sites are open, and children simply arrive on site to eat and are not required to pre-register or present paperwork.