OKLAHOMA CITY (OSDE News Release April 22, 2020) – Oklahoma schools served more than 1.7 million meals to students in a nine-day period during the cessation of school operations in late March, according to new numbers from the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE). The agency’s Office of Child Nutrition released the figures today for the March 23-31 reporting period.
“Our schools have responded in extraordinary ways to the myriad uncertainties posed by a global pandemic,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister.
The meals were served Monday, March 23, through Tuesday, March 31, at 645 sites within 406 school districts. Total meals served were 1,784,608. The numbers were broken down into breakfasts (863,958), lunches (914,281) and snacks (6,369). In Luther, Superintendent Barry Gunn said almost 400 breakfasts and lunches a day are being picked up at the elementary school and at a satellite location.
Under a waiver granted in March by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), all students across the state have access to two free meals a day under the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) program or the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Previously, districts could provide free meals only if 50% of students at a school met eligibility for the free and reduced-price lunch program. OSDE has received a total of 13 USDA waivers to loosen restrictions on school meal service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year, only 33% of Oklahoma school districts participated in the summer feeding program, despite 60% of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches, a figure that has likely risen amid the economic hardships brought by COVID-19. Hofmeister hopes to see additional districts continue their summer programs after distance learning ends for the current school year.
“With district meal programs around the state up and running during this period of distance learning, I encourage school leaders to keep the momentum going and sustain these valuable programs through the summer,” Hofmeister said. “Our communities have been hit hard by this pandemic, and many families are struggling. Providing meals to students this summer is a tangible support we can give families amid so much uncertainty and challenge.”