by Bobby Anderson
Pam Hart has spent the better part of the last three decades ensuring when children come to school a hot meal will be there waiting for them.
For many children, it’s the only meals they can count on.
And when the school doors close for the summertime that doesn’t mean the need goes away.
That’s why the director of child nutrition for Moore Public Schools and directors like her across the metro participate in the Summer Food Service program.
Hart says the Moore Public Schools program is going strong after nearly a decade.
“We felt like it was a win-win on both sides,” Hart explained. “We had some employees who needed money in the summertime and we were able to take advantage of the government program where all kids could eat for free.”
The program is simple: those 18 and under can come to designated locations and eat breakfast and lunch for free. No questions asked.
That means parents and grandparents with limited incomes can ensure their child will have at least two nutritious meals Monday through Friday.
Adults can eat as well for $3.75 per meal.
In Moore, breakfast is served from 8-9 a.m. with lunch following from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Lunch includes the options of a peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese sandwich, a fresh fruit, fresh vegetable chips and a treat.
Juice or milk are also included.
Hart has spent the last 30 years working at Moore Public Schools. The bulk of that has been as the director of child nutrition.
She’s seen the program change and evolve.
The summer nutrition program will travel around the district, usually coinciding with a summer school program at the site.
A couple summers ago the program went out into the local parks.
The outreach was a big success, so much so that the district decided to use bond funds to invest in a food truck.
Hart said the kitchen on wheels could triple or quadruple the number of sites meals may be offered in the future.
“They’re usually pretty good at being lined up and ready to go by the time we get there,” Hart said of the park sites. “It’s convenient when they’re waiting on us.”
Last June, Moore Public Schools served 16,307 lunches and 4,422 breakfasts.
June school nutrition sites in Moore include Plaza Towers, Sky Ranch, Central Elementary and Southmoore. Park sites will include Fairmoore, Veteran’s Memorial Park, Buck Thomas Park and Central Park.
Sites will rotate in July. You can contact the district directly at 405-7030.
Around the metro
The larger districts around the metro participate in the Summer Food Service Program, a federally-funded program administered in Oklahoma by Child Nutrition Programs, Oklahoma State Department of Education.
Federal regulations require that SFSP sponsors notify local health departments of their intention to provide a food service during a specific period at specific sites and arrange for prompt and regular trash removal.
All SFSP sites must meet proper sanitation and health standards which conform to all applicable state and local laws and regulations in the storage, preparation and service of food. You can contact Oklahoma City Public Schools child nutrition at 587-0000.
Edmond Public Schools can be reached at 340-2800.
Regional Food Bank
Through the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Summer Feeding Program, any child 18 and under can receive free, nutritious meals at 132 sites across central and western Oklahoma.
“One in four Oklahoma children are food insecure. As schools close for the summer, many children are left without their primary source of healthy food,” said Katie Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of the Regional Food Bank. “No one, especially children, should ever have to worry about where their next meal will come from. Our partner agencies across the state are ready to fill the summer break gap.”
Through the program, community-based partner agencies distribute freshly packed meals and snacks prepared by the Regional Food Bank to students. The program is offered at sites in 31 counties across the Regional Food Bank’s service area.
In Oklahoma County alone, meals and snacks are offered at 73 different sites. A full list of sites participating in the Summer Feeding Program and when they offer meals and snacks can be found by visiting Meals4KidsOK.org.
Volunteers are needed to help pack fresh meals in the Regional Food Bank’s production kitchen, Hope’s Kitchen, throughout the summer. Multiple shifts per day are offered Tuesday through Saturday. Volunteer by visiting rfbo.org/volunteer or calling 405-600-3160.
For Hart, the summer program has just been common sense.
“A lot of these kiddos from low-income families the meals they get from school are the only hot meal they get in some cases,” Hart said. “In a lot of cases it may be so bad that they may not have those meals available in the summertime. We’re glad to be able to support this so those kids don’t have to go without during summer.”