OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There are two bills running at the Oklahoma State Capitol right now that would change the way Oklahoma public schools provide school meals. One of the bill authors is turning heads with a line about food during the pandemic.
“We were told that during the time of the pandemic, it seemed as if there was way too much on feeding children and not educating them,” said Jennifer Weber of the State Department of Education.
The Executive Director of Child Nutrition is talking about a conversation witnessed with State Representative Dell Kerbs of Shawnee.
“Exactly what was said in that conversation was that there is some concern with members, including myself, that there was too much emphasis put on feeding the kids as far as transporting back and forth the food, and not enough to make sure they were getting their proper education, as well as they were out of balance in some districts,” said Kerbs.
The two state officials were discussing proposed changes to the school meal program. There are two bills currently in the State Legislature that would take the responsibility of providing National School Lunch Act meals from the state department of education to the state department of agriculture.
“If they are hungry all the time, they are not going to study well. They are not going to perform well,” said Kerbs. “The State Department of Education is just that about education. The State Department of Agriculture is all about feeding people. Nutrition is a secondary lane inside the Department of Education,” said Kerbs.
Kerbs says by having the Agriculture Department coordinate, they will be able to work better deals with state and national producers to get more “farm fresh” and less “heat and eat” food for students.
“Any good policy about “farm to fresh” food coming thru the Agriculture Department can completely be accomplished. It’s being accomplished in Norman right now.” said Sen. Mary Boren.
The State Senator from Norman says this is a years-old debate to make education more about math and reading and less able nurturing. She says a switch would be inefficient for schools. Some state officials agree.
“Every dollar should be put into kids, not fighting political battles that cause a lot of chaos within our administrative programs in our state,” said Boren.
“Another state agency that they are going to have to potentially report to could cause additional work for them and school districts,” said Weber.
Kerbs tells KFOR it wouldn’t be inefficient because all those same people coordinating food in the Department of Education would now be in Agriculture. Schools would talk with the same people.