School districts have three options through the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service to feed students during the summer, state school officials told members of the House Human Services Committee last week during in a legislative study.
Joanie Hildenbrand, executive director of the Oklahoma State Department of Education Child Nutrition Programs, said schools can use the National School Lunch Program during the summer if they have summer school. They can also apply to use the Summer Food Service Program or the Seamless Summer Option.
Summer Food Service Program sites, which include schools, private non-profits and other organizations may provide children ages 1-18 food during the summer. The reimbursement rate for the program is higher than that of the Seamless Summer Option.
Barriers to the program include transportation in rural districts and difficulties schools have in providing for the administrative cost and employees during the summer.
Cari Ogden, vice president of community initiatives for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, told the committee that, as a sponsor, the organization was able to provide more than 130,000 meals to children in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area in the form of sack lunches during the 2012 summer.
“Many school districts currently have the option, but not all take advantage of the opportunity. Since federal funding for summer food programs is available, I think we have a responsibility as a community to ensure schools use that funding to provide for the nutritional needs of children who are currently going to bed hungry,” said Inman. “We don’t want children to fall through the cracks.”