Program Fights Summer Hunger

Monday, May 19th 2008, 7:17 pm
By: News On 6

Green Country schools will soon break for summer vacation. It's welcome news for students, but not for parents who face problems putting food on the table. As News On 6's Chris Wright reports, schools intend to keep kids from going hungry.

Food programs served more than one million free meals in Oklahoma last summer. Fueled by high food and gas costs, that number is expected to rise this year.

Kids lined up during lunch hour at Robertson Elementary in Tulsa to load up on chicken nuggets and biscuits, and wash it all down with milk. It's part of their daily routine, but that will change once school lets out.

"Especially because we know these students are not in school. So, they are not getting the normal breakfast and lunch meals we offer in the school," said Hossein Akhtarkhavari with Sodexo.

To keep underprivileged kids fed, Tulsa Public Schools is again offering a summer food program. Eighty-four locations will serve an estimated 4,000 meals a day, from June 4 until August 1. It's a program that continues to grow each year, and that growth is not expected to slow this summer.

"With the economy, I think that's something that the parents, would provide a little bit of relief to them," said Akhtarkhavari.

It is also expected to provide some relief for local food banks. At the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, donations are down and demand is up.

"When one in five kids in our state go to bed hungry, that concerns us a lot. We're very concerned about how kids are going to make it through this summer," said Cindy Stevens with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.

For now, the most pressing concern for kids at Robertson is whether to go with salad or orange slices. The district hopes to keep it that way.

"I think it's extremely important that we take advantage of this program and have the kids get a healthy meal," said Akhtarkhavari.

TPS says 70% of its students already live below the poverty line and more than 26,000 take advantage of free or reduced-priced meals during the school year.

The summer food program is open to anyone under 18 who qualifies.