OKCPS will provide free meals to 44,000 students next school year
Oklahoma City, OK – Today, Oklahoma City Public Schools officials announced that starting next school year, all students will be provided with free nutritious breakfasts and lunches at all school sites in the district. The initiative will be funded through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), a Federal Program through the US Department of Agriculture that subsidizes meals for schools and school districts in low income areas.
For the past three years, OKCPS had been implementing CEP at fifty five school sites and this fall, the school district will add the remaining twenty three sites to the program. The initiative will feed approximately 44,000 students, helping families save up to $1,000 per child next school year.
“We are proud to announce that every child in OKCPS will be granted a free and nutritious breakfast and lunch each day,” said Superintendent Aurora Lora. “Research has shown that students who eat breakfast and lunch on a daily basis increase their attendance, improve their behavior and perform better in school. By providing healthy school meals, OKCPS is making sure that our most vulnerable children are not going hungry.”
The free meals will continue to follow Federal nutrition regulations, ensuring that children are not only being fed but also receiving all the proteins, vitamins and minerals needed for growth and development. “All meals meet very strict nutrition standards set down by USDA,” said Deborah Taylor, OKCPS Associate Director of School Nutrition Services. “School meals are kid-tested and parent-approved. We prepare foods kids like to eat with recipes that provide all the good nutrients they need.”
CEP will reduce administrative paperwork previously required for eligible students, thus allowing schools to focus on feeding efforts. In addition, the program serves as a step forward to end the stigma among students who eat at the cafeteria. “Providing free meals to every student at OKCPS will end putting kids in categories to determine who gets a meal at no cost and who doesn’t,” said Kevin Ponce, Director of School Nutrition Services. “Having free meals for every student will change the perception of the cafeteria and make it a welcoming place for all students—regardless of their socioeconomic situation.”
Gary Cox, Executive Director of Oklahoma City County Health Department, said the initiative will help battle child hunger in the city. “Free breakfast and lunch for all students through Community Eligibility Provision is a major step in battling food insecurity and addressing health inequities in OKC,” said Cox.
“One in four Oklahoma children are food insecure, and the federal school meals programs are critical to ensuring that vulnerable children receive adequate, nutritious meals that support their growth and development,” said Debbie Hamilton, Executive Director of Child Nutrition Programs for the Oklahoma State Department of Education. “CEP is an important addition to the federal school meal programs to ensure food insecurity is kept to a minimum.”