TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — Fourteen states, including Oklahoma, opted out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) summer meal program.

Over the past three years, the program provided families across the country who qualified for free or reduced lunch over the school year with extra cash assistance over the summer.

The program provides vital nutritional support for children, particularly those from low-income families, during summer months when free or reduced-price school meals are inaccessible.

Although students take a summer vacation, hunger does not.

For the past three years, every state was automatically enrolled in the USDA summer meal program to fight hunger, but this year that changed.

States now must opt into the program, but Oklahoma opted out.

States opting in also must support 50% of the administrative costs of the program. Previously it was fully funded by the federal government.

“The Governor of Oklahoma, I believe has said that administration of the program was going to be a challenge because of timing,” Jamie Bussel, senior program officer, said. “I think it goes to choices and imploring our policymakers to make decisions to allow all kids and families to thrive in this country.”

According to the USDA, summer meal programs provide numerous health and educational benefits, including proper brain development, stronger immunity, lower risk of chronic disease, and longer lifespans. Yet despite the program’s numerous benefits, Oklahoma opted not to enroll.

That decision impacts between 400,000 to 650,000 Oklahoma families that would have been eligible for the summer EBT program.

Those families now missing out on $40 per child per month over the summer months.

While it may not sound like a ton, for a family struggling with the high cost of living, rising grocery prices, food insecurity, and real challenges meeting basic needs this is a huge help.

For families that need extra assistance accessing food over the summer, there are many other resources like the Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, the Boys and Girls club, the local YMCA, and even some local school districts.




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