TPS free lunch program continues in the summer

July 11, 2013

Tulsa Public Schools and the federal government are not content to limit “free” school lunches to the school year but are feeding students up to two meals a day during the summer at 65 locations.

Tulsa Public Schools serves free or subsidized school lunches to 85 percent of its students during the school year, according to www.tulsaschool.org.

That website asks, “Ever wonder what those same kids do for meals during the summer? Sadly many often go hungry.”

TPS instead steps in and provides lunch and breakfast through its Summer Café program from June 3 through July 26. No explanation of how children will eat from July 27 until the start of the fall semester is given on the website.

The goal is “to make sure no child goes hungry over the summer.” No mention is made of the responsibility of a parent or parents to feed their children.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) for children is a federally-funded program operated nationally by the United States Department of Agriculture. Free meals are served to all children 18 years of age or younger at any approved meal site. Even teens who are old enough to get a summer job are offered free food. Not all sites serve breakfast and lunch – some only lunch.

 

In 2012, the Summer Cafe program served 81,690 breakfasts and 121,201 lunches in the Tulsa community.

The program was created by Congress in 1968 to serve nutritious meals to poor children and has been expanded during the Obama administration.

The meals are served at 27 public schools, 12 churches, seven apartment complexes, four community centers, four parks, four childcare centers, two YMCAs, two day camps, two missions (including the John 3:16 Mission) and one association.

Thirty-nine of the locations are in North Tulsa, 10 in South Tulsa, eight in West Tulsa and six in East Tulsa.

SFSP is one of the most underutilized federal programs, with around only 10 percent of children across the nation who are eligible for the program receiving meals.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack endorses the National Summer Food Service Program and stated the USDA’s commitment to ensuring that “no child goes hungry when school is out.” The USDA’s goal is to serve 5 million more meals to eligible kids across the country this summer.

“When school is out during the summer months, many families struggle to feed their children even one nutritious meal a day,” said Vilsack. “Government cannot address this challenge alone, which is why, this week, we join our valued partners to raise awareness about the nutrition gap low-income children face when schools close for the summer. Working together, we can make sure children have access to nutritious food year-round.”

Last year, USDA’s summer feeding programs provided 161 million meals, feeding approximately 3.5 million children on a typical summer day.

In order to grow the program, the USDA:

  • Issued a national call to action for schools, communities and faith-based organizations to increase the number of feeding sites.
  • Expanded the reach of the program in five states with high levels of “rural and urban food insecurity” – Arkansas, California, Colorado, Rhode Island and Virginia.
  • Worked to help connect families to summer meals. To find sites, call 1-866-3-Hungry or 1-877-8-Hambre (Spanish) or visit the National Hunger Clearinghouse resource directory.

“USDA’s summer feeding initiative supports programs that keep children active and engaged when school is out, reducing learning loss that often occurs during the summer months,” said Vilsack. “We must do all we can to ensure that children get nutritious food year-round, so that they are ready to learn during the school year and have a greater chance to succeed.”

First Lady Michelle Obama’s program, Let’s Move! initiative, is promoting the free government food programs that touch one in four American families each year.

But the policy of Barack Obama and the Budget Control Act (sequestration) has forced the USDA to try to cut its budget by $828 million.

The farm bill failed by a 234-195 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in June as conservatives reacted to the dramatic rise in the number of Americans on food stamps.

Critics said it was no longer a “farm bill” but a trillion-dollar spending bill that “put the cost of welfare on the backs of farmers.”

The budget for food stamps in America is nearly $75,000,000,000.00.