'It's Not Fully Vetted Yet': Gov. Stitt On Opting Out Of USDA Summer Meal Program

'It's Not Fully Vetted Yet': Gov. Stitt On Opting Out Of USDA Summer Meal Program

Governor Kevin Stitt opted out of a federal summer meal program for 2024. The program is similar to the plan implemented by the USDA during the pandemic.

The program would have provided $40 per month for families with kids on the free and reduced lunch plan. The governor’s office says they didn’t have enough information to commit to the program this year.

This new federal program is from the US Department of Agriculture. It is called S-EBT. States had until Jan. 1 to opt in.

“It’s not fully vetted yet,” Stitt said. “We’ll watch the program next year and see how it rolls out.”

CEO and President of Hunger Free Oklahoma, Chris Bernard, says this summer will hit hard.

“We can’t say exactly what the impact will be yet, but it will be significant,” Bernard said.

He says the S-EBT program would have put $40 a month in the pockets of families who really need it. Families who already qualify for free and reduced lunches.

“You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of families who are now going to have to make some tough decisions,” Bernard said.

Governor Stitt says the USDA’s new program would not be a magic fix for food insecurity in Oklahoma. Stitt is confident in the state’s programs that are already established, like DHS and the Regional Food Bank.

“What’s the difference this year versus last year? It just makes no sense that in 2024 if we don't opt into this new government program that kids are not going to be fed in the summertime.” Stitt said. “Every Oklahoman that is eligible for the S-EBT program is already eligible for the Department of Education’s summer feeding program.”

Bernard says this is not enough.

“All of these programs are meant to work together,” Bernard said. “We need to be leveraging all of them, especially when it’s a fairly low cost to the state.”

For more information on the Regional Food Bank’s Summer Feeding Program, click here.

For more information on the DHS Summer Food Service Program, click here.

For information on other meal services for kids, click here.