Oklahoma school feeding programs would fall under Agriculture rather than Education under bill advanced in Senate
A bill that would change how school lunch programs are administered was passed by the Oklahoma Senate Tuesday morning.
Senate Bill 1624, authored by Edmond Republican Senator Adam Pugh, would transfer the administration of school meal programs from Oklahoma’s State Department of Education to the State Department of Agriculture. It would affect about 30 employees.
Pugh says the move could make it easier for local school districts to source food locally.
“The goal was to feed people, to support local agriculture, to increase domestic production and to get global sources of food into schools,” Pugh said.
But his Senate colleagues who questioned the bill suggested it was a solution in search of a problem. And it would create extra steps of bureaucracy, forcing schools to report data to two different state departments.
School lunch programs have been especially strained by the coronavirus in recent years. However, the feeding programs have been touted as one of the state’s biggest victories during the pandemic.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Democratic candidate for Governor, Joy Hofmeister, panned the measure, according to the Tulsa World.
“As a state, we should be focused on why 60% of our students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches,” Hofmeister told The World. “Instead of rearranging who distributes the national school lunch program, which only pulls attention and resources away from needy students, our state needs a broader vision for how to provide more opportunities to families.”
Ultimately, the Senate approved it 30 to 14. It now moves to the House. If it ultimately is signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, it would go into effect in 2023.