OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Department of Education has received approval for meal service to continue during possible school closures amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The department made the announcement Monday morning that the approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is for two requested waivers.
Meals will be available at no cost to low-income children and are not required to be served in a group setting to avoid possible exposure to the coronavirus.
“When schools close, our first concern is for the safety and well-being of our children. We know that some kids will not have access to nutritious meals if they do not attend school,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “The approval of these waivers provides flexibility so Oklahoma children get wholesome meals while safeguarding their health.”
Last week, OSDE‘s Child Nutrition Programs applied for four waivers from the USDA Food and Nutrition Services. During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of the USDA’s summer meal programs.
The two waivers approved Saturday, March 14 will:
- Allow for an alternative or “grab and go” meal service to limit interaction and proximity, reducing the risk of coronavirus exposure; this flexibility would allow possible meal deliveries away from school.
- Waive the requirement that school meal operations must be served at a school site during unanticipated school closure. This will allow food service staff to prepare the alternative or “grab and go” meals at school sites.
The waivers are good through June 30 or until the federally declared public health emergency expires, whichever is earlier. They only apply to schools participating in the National School Lunch Program’s Seamless Summer Option (SSO) or the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
OSDE is awaiting approval on two other waivers. One would allow schools in areas not designated as high need to cover meals to students under the Emergency School Closure provision of the SFSP or SSO. The other would allow sponsors to provide reimbursable meals pending availability of meal pattern components.