Providing food security for Oklahoma students who might otherwise go without meals

COVID-19 Policy Analysis: As our nation confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, OK Policy will be analyzing state and federal policies that impact our state and its residents during this national health emergency. These posts reflect the most current information available at publication, and we will update or publish follow-ups as new information becomes available.

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On Monday, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) closed all public schools, including virtual and charter schools, until at least April 6 due to the coronavirus. Officials cautioned that the closures could extend even longer. While school closures mean lost learning time, many students also depend on schools for their meals. 

In response to this need, OSDE received approval for waivers to allow schools to provide “grab and go” meals at no cost to low-income students who qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch through the Summer Food Service Program. Districts will determine where and when students can get meals, but many have already announced locations where students can pick-up lunch and breakfast for the following day. OSDE sought approval to extend meal service to schools that are not in high-need areas. A waiver was also approved that allows students to pick-up multiple meals at one time, which will help improve accessibility for families by reducing transportation to the pick-up site and also decrease social contact. 

In addition to providing meals during school closure, the federal Family First Coronavirus Act, which was passed on March 18th, includes the Pandemic EBT Act, which extends SNAP benefits (commonly known as food stamps) to families with children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and attend schools that have been closed for 5 or more consecutive days. State agencies will need to submit applications for approval to the federal government to implement the program. Adopting this benefit would help ensure food security for over half of Oklahoma students and families who would qualify. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebecca Fine joined OK Policy in July 2018 as the education policy analyst. Originally from New York, she began her career in education as an Oklahoma teacher. Rebecca proudly comes from a family of educators, and spent four years teaching middle school in Tulsa and Union Public Schools. She graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in political science from the University of Rochester and received an M.A. in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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