One in four Oklahoma children are at risk of not having enough to eat, yet the state leaves over $400 million in child nutrition funding on the table each year because of our low participation in federal assistance programs. By expanding access to federal school meal programs, we can get students the nutrition they need to develop and learn.
Hunger Free Oklahoma, a nonprofit advocacy group in Tulsa, has a plan to help low-income schools feed more kids and increase their revenue. This video by OETA describes Hunger Free Oklahoma’s initiative to get more Oklahoma schools and districts involved in options to minimize food insecurity, like in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP.
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The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a federal option allowing high-poverty schools to serve free breakfast and lunch to every student without requiring meal applications. Schools are paid for the meals based on the number of students who participate in programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously known as food stamps). By helping eligible families sign up for food assistance, Hunger Free Oklahoma makes it easier for schools to adopt CEP and bring free meals to all students, helping family budgets and reducing the stigma that can accompany having free- and reduced-price school meals for only some students. While several Oklahoma districts, including Tulsa Public Schools and Oklahoma City Public Schools, have chosen the CEP, participation still lags in Oklahoma.
In the future, Hunger Free Oklahoma hopes to help more schools improve participation in programs like Breakfast in the Classroom and the Summer Food Service Program, which provides two meals a day during summer vacation. We can end hunger in Oklahoma, and maximizing existing resources is a critical first step.