Brent Sadler is Vice President of Community Investments for the Tulsa Area United Way.
With the potential for a teacher walkout on the horizon, one of our greatest concerns is food insecurity for our most vulnerable citizens – our children. In Oklahoma, nearly 24 percent of all children live in food-insecure households, and 62 percent of Oklahoma public school students are enrolled in a free or reduced-price meal program.
The Tulsa Area United Way service area includes Tulsa, Creek, Wagoner, Osage, Rogers and Okmulgee counties, where the number of children eligible for free and reduced price meals program exceeds 98,000 students. This includes 30,000 eligible students in Tulsa Public Schools alone. Without school, many students are at risk of being hungry.
Many may not understand that breakfast and/or lunch at school may be the only meal for many young Oklahomans. Many may not know that on Friday, many children are sent home with food backpacks to help supplement food needs over the weekend. Of course, the issue of food insecurity is always with us. The first day of summer break is a reminder of this issue. School districts across the state serve meals to students during the summer months through the same federal food programs that provide meals during the year. But with the impending teacher walkout, summer may very well come six weeks early this year.
Our communities, like most across the state, are responding to this potential crisis. At the Tulsa Area United Way, we have prepared a directory of services designed to capture resources offered by local organizations in support of our students. These services include food and meal distribution sites, educational and recreational opportunities and child care services. (Some 70 sites will provide meals to students through federal nutrition programs, staffed and served by nutrition employees and volunteers.) In turn, this directory has been made available to the public for parents and caregivers to locate services and contact these generous organizations attempting to assist our students. If you are in our six-county service area, visit our website at www.tauw.org. We will continually update and add services, resources and providers through the teacher walkout.
It is our sincere hope that our state legislators act and find a solution for our state teachers and that a walkout on April 2 will be averted. However, for the time being, a host of community organizations are prepared to fill in the gaps.
The opinions stated above are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. This blog is a venue to help promote the discussion of ideas from various points of view and we invite your comments and contributions. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.