OKLAHOMA (KFOR) – There’s a mission to ensure all Oklahoma children are fed this summer. Meal sites across the state are providing free summer meals to kids.
“It’s a way for children to eat and get meals at no charge during the summer months when school’s not in session,” said Jennifer Weber, Executive Director of Child Nutrition Programs. “It’s unfortunate that Oklahoma is one of the most food-insecure states in America.”
It’s a sobering fact, but the feeding program is hoping to change the narrative.
All summer long, free meals will be provided to all children, not just children attending school.
Summer meal sites are primarily operated through a federally-funded, state-administered program that provides children and youth in low-income areas with free and nutritious meals when school is not in session.
“We were faced with the fact that food insecurity is greater in Oklahoma than in many, many other states,” said Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent of Public Instruction.”
Hofmeister told KFOR that 60% of Oklahoma students qualify for free or reduced lunch. In the summer, it’s only 6%.
“Children who are hungry cannot learn, and it’s depriving them of their development in some instances without proper nutrition,” said Weber.
Nearly 21 million balanced and nutritious meals were served to children last year, according to Hunger Free Oklahoma.
“We can’t understate how important it is that if our kids are going to be able to learn, we [must] recognize that child nutrition is a big part of that,” said Hofmeister. “We can’t have a gap in access to child nutrition.”
If a child is 18 and under, they are eligible to receive a free meal at any of the hundreds of participating meal sites.
Meal sites can be found at meals4kidsok.org, a partnership of Hunger Free Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Department of Education, and the Code for Tulsa.