Oklahoma children were better fed through the Summer Food Service Program last summer than they were the year before, according to the 2019 Food Research & Action Center report. And, advocates expect even more kids in the state to eat free meals through the program this summer.
The Summer Food Service Program provides meals and snacks to children in low-income areas through partnership with community organizations. The goal is to make sure children who rely on meals from their schools during the school year also have access to meals over the summer.
However, Oklahoma has not always taken full advantage of the program. For years, Oklahoma has been ranked dead last for the percentage of eligible students who eat these community sponsored summer meals. And, in the most recent report from the Food Research & Action Center, the state was ranked 51st again.
However, Chris Bernard with Hunger Free Oklahoma says there's reason to be hopeful.
“It's been sort of a slow buy in, but we’re starting to see a lot more people interested in participating," he said. "And, people are really starting to hear about the program and get excited.”
Bernard says groups across the state from the Department of Education to the Food Security Coalition have made increasing participation a priority by raising awareness and signing on community sponsors.
And, that paid off. From 2017 to 2018, Oklahoma saw one of the biggest increases in student participation in the country—nearly 15%.
Bernard hopes to keep participation on the rise.
“There’s a lot of us working on continuing these increases year over year," he said. "It's important because it makes sure the nearly 400,000 kids who rely on free and reduced lunch have access to enough food during the summer.”
To find a meal site, visit Meals4KidsOK.org.