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Oklahoma students will see increased access to summer meals under omnibus bill

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The omnibus package signed by President Joe Biden includes some stipulations that will make getting lunch easier for students in Oklahoma.

One provision enshrines a permanent nationwide benefit for lunches over the summer months. Executive Director of Hunger Free Oklahoma Chris Bernard said qualified families can get $40 per month for up to $120 a summer through the electronic benefits transfer program.

“The most effective way to deal with food insecurity, period, is an EBT model, to give people the resources to purchase their own food when they need it, and the beauty of that program is it stimulates local economies. It keeps money flowing through local businesses,” said Bernard.

Another change included in the omnibus is the doing away of a congregate setting requirement for rural areas. Previously, parents had to transport their children to a place where they could eat with other people to get meals over the summer. Bernard said that was an example of a law not set up for reality.

“Imagine in rural areas in particular, since that’s what this covers, a kid trying to get to a site that’s maybe as far as 15 miles away twice a day to get a meal. In theory, the parents are working. That’s the goal. So if you have nobody at home with you, how do you get to these places?”

Bernard said with the congregate setting requirement removed during the pandemic, 20 million meals were served during the summer to students across Oklahoma, up from 1.6 million meals during non-pandemic times.

A third provision would see stolen federal nutrition benefits known as SNAP replaced. Bernard said “SNAP skimming” is becoming more common in Oklahoma and the omnibus will replace two months of benefits up to two times a year.

The omnibus bill was signed by Biden last week.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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