TAHLEQUAH, Okla. -- Some parents in the Tahlequah school district worry about the quality of food some students are getting who can't afford meals.
In Tahlequah, middle and high schoolers fork out $1.75 for breakfast and $3 for lunch. Superintendent Leon Ashlock says prices increased this year by 25 cents.
"I’d be cheaper for them to have McDonald’s," said Nikkolas Groat, a Tahlequah parent.
Some parents worry schools aren't providing children with enough food, especially after a post went around Facebook showing a Tahlequah student with a cheese sandwich.
"It’s not fair to the kid to come home and you got two parents that are working and you have to make a sandwich to pass by," said Groat.
But Superintendent Ashlock says the sandwich and milk meal is provided to students who don't have money for school meals, and surpassed a $10 credit charge.
"It’s an alternative meal so it’s not the exact same meal everybody else gets so I get the aspect of that, but like I said I’ve looked at many other school's policies and ours is almost identical to a lot," said Superintendent Ashlock.
Families can fill out an application for free or reduced meals at any time during the school year, which are available on the school's website.
According to Tahlequah's Child Nutrition Team, all children in households receiving SNAP benefits, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are eligible for free meals. Foster children who are under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court are eligible for free meals. Children who meet the definition of homeless, runaway, or migrant are also eligible for free meals, according to the Nutrition Team.
If families disagree with the school's decision about your application, you can contact the Child Nutrition Director at 918-458-4193.
"Last year we paid about $7,000 out of the school budget for lunches for students and parents who one reason or another couldn’t pay that bill," said Superintendent Ashlock.
Reduced meals cut the price down to 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch.
Nikkolas Groat who has two kids in the Tahlequah district hope things change for schools in Oklahoma, where quality food is provided to all students at no cost. He started a Go Fund Me trying to raise money for families who need help paying for school meals.
"I’m just a parent trying to do the right thing by their child," said Groat.
Superintendent Ashlock says the Child Nutrition Team runs a summer food service program which was offered at one school site over the summer and a mobile food truck. Services were free to anyone under 18, and they served 7,800 free meals. He says they also run a backpack program that sends food home to students over the weekends. The high school offers a food pantry students can access. Superintendent Ashlock says the district provides after school meals to hundreds of students in their Boys and Girls program after school. He says these programs are funded through grant and donations.
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