OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) uncovers a record amount of fraud at child-feeding sites across the state.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidizes a number of feeding programs that allow children to receive nutritious meals at free or reduced prices including the National School Lunch Program. The agency extended additional flexibilities to program providers over the past 12 months due to the pandemic.
Many schools, community organizations, and nonprofits across Oklahoma raced to provide free meals to children. Participation in OSDE's Summer Food Service Program soared by over 700 percent during the pandemic.
It was found that program sites served over 13 million meals to children from May to August in 2020. Those sites include public schools, daycares, juvenile centers, after-school programs, and stand-alone summer feeding programs.
OSDE uncovered that over $1.6 million in federal funds were improperly claimed for reimbursement since April 2020. The majority of these improper claims were reported at child-care sites, OSDE officials found.
The Office of Child Nutrition Services discovered the fraudulent activity through a number of new accountability measures, including an unannounced review process that began in place in 2016.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister gave the following statement:
“We are incredibly grateful for our schools and community partners that stepped up to ensure the nutritional needs of children were met over the last year, as hundreds of schools provided summer meals for the first time. Oklahoma families rely on these services, and we are committed to ensuring integrity for these programs that fuel young learners. Oklahoma will continue to leverage federal dollars to help our children gain supports to be healthy and successful, and it is our charge to safeguard that valuable investment by taxpayers.”
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