Oklahoma Has Opted Out of a Summer Food Program Operating Since COVID Outbreak
KTUL - January 5, 2024 6:30 am
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — Wednesday, the State of Oklahoma announced it declined to join a new summer food program that reaches thousands of kids from across the state.
Governor Kevin Stitt spoke to news outlets in a meeting Wednesday afternoon, where he detailed the reasoning behind the state declining to join the program.
In the meeting Governor Stitt mentioned numerous times that he ‘does not want any child to go hungry’ however he says, ‘they didn’t have enough information on the program and that’s why they passed on it this year.’
This EBT program would have given out forty dollars per month in the summer for children who either receive reduced lunch or reduced-priced meals during the school year.
The governor said to his understanding, his administration was worried about how to administer the program, buy software, and other things to what he says is a very small population.
But, according to the Kids Count annual report, nearly one in five children face food insecurity.
“The reason that we did not opt into the EBT program at this point is, it’s not fully vetted yet. Basically, they require states to opt in what their calling the S-EBT program before the rules were even finalized. I think you need to ask the feds that. Why are they wanting everybody to opt in before they even finalized the program.”
He says that one of the backbones of his administration is that under his watch they ‘have given over 20 million dollars to different food banks.’
However, organizations like Hunger Free Oklahoma say this is a program that would be similar to something they’ve had since the start of the pandemic.
“It was called pandemic EBT. It was operating in the summer but also during the school year when kids missed meals. It operated last summer and served over 400 thousand kids and brought over 15 million dollars into the state,” said Hunger Free Oklahoma President & CEO, Chris Bernard.
Community members have been reacting to the decision, and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Hoskin Jr. released this statement:
One of those changes, according to Chris Bernard, is that the state has to cover part of the cost in order to receive those federal dollars.
And according to Governor Stitt, every single Oklahoman that’s eligible for EBT, is already eligible for the Department of Education Summer Meals Program.