Cleveland Schools Put 'Kids First,' Open Doors For Summer Food Program

Thursday, May 19th 2016, 6:41 pm
By: Tess Maune

Despite a tight budget, Cleveland Public Schools is vowing to make sure none of its students go hungry this summer.

And their program will help feed children in other schools, too.

It's summer break in Cleveland, but the middle school cafeteria is still full of children.

“We don't have that much food at our house, that's why we come here,” 10-year-old Landon said.

And that is what Cleveland's free summer food program is all about.

Landon and his stepbrother Ty come to the cafeteria.

“Every day,” Landon said.

Twice a day.

“The sad fact of it is, our kids need the school to have that place to come and eat,” CPS Superintendent Aaron Espolt said.

Superintendent Aaron Espolt says 72 percent of Cleveland students are on the school's free or reduced meal plan.

It’s a large enough number the district voted against going to a four-day school week to save money.

“One of the primary drivers was because we were concerned about our kids not eating that Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” Espolt said.

Oklahoma schools still don't know how much money they'll get from the state next year, so Cleveland, like many others, has made big cuts.

But funding the summer food program wasn't one of them.

“Kids come first,” Espolt said.

Cleveland Schools Food Service Director Cindy Proctor says the kids love it. There are no income requirements, and anyone can show up and grab a plate.

“They just come in with a smile on their face and their plates are full,” she said.

The summer program will feed more than 200 kids Monday-Thursday.

Breakfast and lunch are free to anyone 18 and under, and they don't have to be Cleveland students. Children from any town are invited. Breakfast is served from 7:30-9 a.m. Lunch is 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Adults are welcome, too, and pay a small fee of $2 for breakfast and $3.50 for lunch.

“I want a lot of people to come,” Proctor said. “I want to be able to run back and fix more food.”

The summer food program likely will cost more than $20,000 -- the district budgets for it because it has to pay that money up front.

The federal government will reimburse the school at the end of summer.