school lunch

Ken Boyd / KOSU

Over the course of the pandemic, Oklahoma’s public schools have been a critical piece to fighting child hunger. StateImpact’s Robby Korth reports on the efforts of the state’s schools to get more than 40 million free meals to children while they’ve been learning from home or just out of school.

AMY MAYER / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA FILE PHOTO

Schools are resuming instruction but with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, they are facing an ever-changing metric for whether students are physically in school buildings. Being able to provide meals to them no matter how they’re learning remains a challenging priority. 

Ken Boyd / KOSU

Oklahoma City Public Schools announced Wednesday that a staff member involved in school nutrition services tested positive for the coronavirus. But, the school district is taking steps to keep meal service going.

The staff member works at John Marshall Enterprise Middle School and is not directly involved in food preparation or distribution.

Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

In a Monday evening meeting, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel said Oklahoma City schools are adjusting to the new reality of life with shuttered schools.

The district has found a rhythm, especially with free meals distributed to students, and has disbursed almost 375,000 meals in a 15 day period. McDaniel estimated that by the end of the week, the district will have served half a million meals.

Oklahoma students will be able to get two free meals a day, thanks to a U.S. Department of Agriculture waiver granted to the state Monday.

The USDA waived a requirement that districts can provide free meals only if half of its students were eligible for free and reduced-price lunches.

Oklahoma students will continue receive meals from their schools during mass closures. The State of Oklahoma applied for and received two waivers from the US Department of Agriculture to distribute lunches to children living in low-income households.

Two pending rule changes meant to reduce what the Trump administration calls abuse of federal benefit programs could also mean hundreds of thousands of children lose access to free school meals.

When Elle Simone Scott was a young girl, her family relied on food stamps and her school's free lunch program to get by.

"At several points in my life, receiving free lunch when I needed it the most, it was so beneficial for me," she says. "You know, it was sometimes the most complete meal that I and some of my friends would have in a day."

Food Research & Action Center

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. 

Three years after the shooting death of Philando Castile, his legacy of helping others continues. His mother, Valerie Castile, has given $8,000 to a Minnesota high school to settle school lunch debts. The donation, given on behalf of the Philando Castile Relief Foundation, alleviated the lunch debt at Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minn.

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