Be a Part of Your School’s Village

Be a Part of Your School’s Village 

by Katie Raymond, Regional Program Manager

 

August 24, 2022

Even though the sun still burns bright and temps are high, August in Oklahoma means Back-to-School season. Between deals on school supplies and tax-free weekends, this season is geared toward making sure families have what they need to be successful for a new school year. But what about empowering families throughout the year? 

Schools are an important asset to our communities that provide year-round access to support and resources. They are uniquely positioned to empower the students and families they get to know so well throughout the school year. School staff rejoice in their students’ triumphs, commiserate with their struggles, and walk with them through their journeys. However, schools cannot be left to do all this work alone.  

School staff are tired after more than two years operating at full speed during a pandemic. Now they are faced with the additional challenge of going back to pre-pandemic ways of operating, including the traditional pay structure for school meals. It has been an incredible benefit to families for all children to receive free meals at school for the past two years. Now we all must step in and help raise awareness in our communities that this flexibility is no longer available. 

Helping get School Meal Applications turned in and increasing awareness of SNAP grocery assistance are two ways you can help schools empower families to improve food and nutrition security in your community.  

 

School Meal Applications  

What are they?  

Families complete School Meal Applications to see if their children are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals at school, including breakfast and lunch. Forms are available throughout the year and can be completed at any time. Families can complete a form if household size or income changes. Households with more than one child only need to submit one application per school.  

Why are they helpful?  

There are many benefits tied to School Meal Applications for both families and school districts. Students receive nutritious meals which have consistently proven to improve health, wellness, and academic success. Families may also be eligible for discounted SAT, ACT, or AP exams, additional scholarship opportunities, discounted fees associated with college applications, and more.   

Students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals are also eligible to receive benefits through the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) and Summer EBT programs. While it is not clear if these programs will extend in the future, the safest bet is for families to complete their application and return it to their local school.  

School Meal Applications impact schools’ Title funding and state aid allocations. It comes down to accurate reporting and funding. The state determines how much funding the school district will receive for that year based on their free and reduced-price rates. It is critical that families complete and return a School Meal Application to their school so the district can receive accurate funding for the school year.  

Additionally, free and reduced-price rates for the school and district can help other community organizations meet eligibility thresholds so they can also serve meals at afterschool and summer programs to children 18 years old and younger.  

How can I help?  

There are several ways to help increase School  Meal Application return rates in your community.  

  1. Spread the word. Utilize back-to-school newsletters, PTA meetings, church bulletins, sports events, and social media to share information to families.  
  2. Incentivize application return. Many districts in Oklahoma are incentivizing School Meal Application completion for all students. Oologah-Talala and Norman Public Schools are offering athletic passes to families who complete the form. Other ideas include creating drawings for gift cards, bundles of school supplies, tablets, or other items that can aid in students’ learning.  
  3. Celebrate milestones. School and district leaders can set goals for completed forms and recognize progress along the way. Schools can celebrate milestones by offering class or grade parties when all the families submit their applications.  

 

SNAP Outreach at Your School  

What is SNAP?  

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps eligible individuals and families stretch their monthly budget by providing them with electronic benefits they can spend on groceries. This means SNAP can help families access nutritious foods on nights and weekends when students are out of school. Despite its proven ability to improve household food security, SNAP is underutilized in Oklahoma. Schools are a great place to increase awareness of the program and enhance access to the application. 

Why is it helpful?  

SNAP has many benefits for students and families, schools, and the wider community. Students whose family receives SNAP are directly certified to receive free meals at school which attribute to lower rates of absenteeism and behavioral issues leading to better academic performance. Schools use the number of students directly certified to receive free meals to determine their identified student percentage, an important factor when using programs like the Community Eligibility Provision which can feed all students at school for free.  

Families receiving SNAP benefits can offset financial strains like having to choose between having enough food and covering the cost of basic needs like housing, transportation, and medical care. 

Schools use the number of students directly certified to receive free meals to determine their identified student percentage, an important factor when using programs like the Community Eligibility Provision which can feed all students at school for free.  

Communities benefit from the added economic boost that comes from families purchasing more at local stores. 

How can I help?  

Increasing awareness of SNAP and access to the application are two main ways to help families.  

  1. Share the SNAP Application Assistance Hotline information
    • Call toll-free: 1-877-760-0114
    • Language assistance available
    • Calls are confidential and take about 20 minutes

 

  1. Connect to the statewide Community Partner Network
    • The Community Partner Network allows community members and organizations to engage in statewide SNAP outreach in a way that best fits their capacity. Ways to get involved include sharing SNAP information, hosting SNAP application events, and becoming trained in the SNAP application process.

 

  1. If you’re a rural school, complete the interest form for the Rural School Cohort
    • Schools already serve as community hubs and are a trusted source for resources and information. Hunger Free Oklahoma is expanding a pilot program to equip schools with the knowledge and tools they need to connect students and families to SNAP benefits.

 

Other grocery assistance programs that can help families access the nutrition they need include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR or FDP), and where applicable, the Double Up Oklahoma (DUO) program.  

 

Helping connect students to free and reduced-price school meals and families to grocery assistance programs are only two ways to improve food and nutrition security in communities. For more information about additional child nutrition programs and other ways to empower families, check out the Fighting Child Hunger and Three Ways to Improve Child Food Security pages.  

 

Don’t forget! September’s Hungry for Action Speaker Series session titled “Feeding the Future: 3 Meals a Day, 365 Days a Year” will focus on child nutrition. Click here to read more about the session, the guest speakers, and to register.   

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