Summer food program needs help

The Oklahoma Department of Education is looking for organizations to handle the Summer Food Service Program.

Eligible sponsors include public or governmental agencies, private, nonprofit residential summer camps and private, nonprofit organizations.

This program provides nutritious meals for children from needy areas who participate in summer educational or recreational programs and for eligible children enrolled in summer camps.

Last summer, Oklahoma’s participation in the Summer Food Service Program increased 14 percent over the previous year, resulting in 1.6 million free meals for children age 18 and under between May and August. Almost 200,000 additional meals were provided during summer 2017.

In Oklahoma, nearly 62 percent of public school students are eligible for free- or reduced-priced lunches. Previously, only 6.4 percent of those same students took part in feeding programs during the summer months when school was not in session, ranking Oklahoma 51st in the nation.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools now service a free lunch and breakfast to all students, regardless of family incomes. Tulsa is planning to do so, also.

“An estimated 1 in 4 Oklahoma children is considered food insecure,” said State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. “Providing these meals at no cost to thousands of families during summer break results in better health, greater focus and overall higher cognitive function when children return to school in the fall. It’s also the right thing to do – no child should go hungry in Oklahoma.”

State officials have set a goal of increasing the number of meals served in the summer feeding program by 30 percent by 2025.

Children age 18 and under may receive meals through SFSP. A person 19 years of age and over who has a mental or physical disability is also eligible to receive meals.

Needy areas are defined as those in which half of the children are eligible for free- and reduced-price meals in school. Eligibility may also be determined by census information or individual eligibility of children. Financial assistance is given to approved sponsors to assist with the cost of obtaining, preparing and serving food under the program, including administrative costs.