The hot weather is hard on many relief organizations looking to help the needy of Oklahoma, but for the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, it’s not the biggest challenge over the summer.
“The Tulsa Public School system has said that 79 percent of the kids in the Tulsa Public School system are on the free and reduced meals for breakfast and lunch,” said Food Bank spokeswoman Susan Tilkin.
Students who are out of school for the summer don’t get that benefit over the break.
“So a family who has kids going to school, that were on free and reduced breakfast and lunches,” she said, “are now looking at two meals a day that they just simply were not needing to take care of.”
She says the Food Bank still provides weekend food backpacks to students in summer school, but that the program reaches fewer children than in the normal school year.
“We look to our partner programs to let us know” when they encounter hungry children, she said.
Tilkin says that while feeding children is a priority during the summer, need hasn’t been diminishing seasonally.
“Honestly the last several years, it just seems to have stayed at that kind of higher level,” she said. “In the past, you usually see … a tough three or four months, and then it kind of levels back off. We unfortunately haven’t seen it level back down; we’ve just been at that higher peak for the last, I would say, three years consistently.”
Last year Oklahoma was tied with Arkansas for hungriest state in the nation.
While Tilkin says she hopes Oklahoma can get off the top of that list, she also says she “can’t see a huge difference that would take us of that unfortunate number.”
Click above to hear Tilkin explain the challenge to a family that normally receives free/reduced meals at school.