Oklahoma Ranked Last In Feeding Children During Summer, Report Finds

Friday, June 29th 2018, 10:04 pm
By: Ashley Izbicki

A new report just released shows Oklahoma ranks last in the nation when it comes to feeding children during the summer. 

The Department of Education and non-profits are now teaming up to end child hunger. 

There are more than 600 summer food sites across the state but the problem is getting kids there. 

Only 1 in 20 kids who qualify for free meals are getting them in the summer.

The lanes are closed but the kitchen is open at an old bowling alley in Tulsa. 

Rose Bowl Event Center on historic Route 66 is one of more than 60 of Tulsa Public Schools' summer cafe sites. 

"For a lot of them, it is the healthiest meal they're getting in the day, if not one of the only meals they're maybe getting," said Nutrition Educator Mackenzie Moody. 

61 percent of Oklahoma kids qualify for free and reduced meals but only 6 percent get them after the school year ends. 

Statewide, 1.5 million meals were served last summer.

"That is representing just a fraction of students who we know are food insecure," said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. "That's shameful."

She says a public awareness campaign that started last year is helping, with more sites open now than ever. 

But federal money earmarked for these students is going to other states.

"Historically, Oklahomans haven't been able to draw down those funds," Hofmeister said. 

That's because the state is only reimbursed for meals served.

"We're constantly asking ourselves and evaluating why. Why aren't we reaching more kids? What can we do?" said Director of Operations of Child Nutrition Mikael Harp. 

TPS says activities like sports and tutoring help.

"Programming is what brings these kids in,” said Harp.  

But with only two kids there on Friday and plenty of empty seats, no child should go hungry. 

"No. Absolutely not. And we know it's happening. And I think that's what we as school employees worry about the most,” said Harp. 

TPS is also piloting hot food at two sites and it's working.

Eugene Field Elementary served 10 kids a day last summer and is now serving 100. 

For a map of all the food sites, click here