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Lankford Acts to Speed Up Process to Feed Kids for OK Department of Education

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today applauded swift action by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) following its timely approval of a waiver to allow Oklahoma students statewide to able to access two free meals a day, which Lankford helped facilitate. The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) applied for the waiver March 11 and March 25 to remove the requirement that school feeding sites be located in high-need areas under the Emergency School Closure provisions of the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Approved over the weekend, the waiver grants site-area eligibility to 31 states, including Oklahoma.

“For many Oklahoma students, the meals available to them at school are the only meals they may have that day,” said Lankford. “This waiver is critical to ensure that we maintain the program’s purpose and allow the maximum flexibility of the rules during this very unique time in our nation. I am grateful for the work of our Oklahoma State Department of Education and for the swift action from the USDA to make sure this important program to feed children runs smoothly even in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.”

Prior to the waiver, districts could provide free meals only if 50 percent of students at a school met eligibility for the free and reduced-price lunch program. Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the waiver is welcome news as districts clamor for ways to get meals to students in the midst of distance learning necessary in the wake of the global pandemic.

“Amid such uncertainty and instability, we should not be asking our families or schools to worry over needless red tape,” Hofmeister said. “This waiver means that, following a simple application, any district in the state can establish feeding sites for up to two free meals a day for every student who needs one.”

The waiver is in effect until June 30, 2020, or until the federally declared public health emergency expires.