Tulsa Public Schools has reached out to Oklahoma's Congressional delegation and the Tulsa City Council to discuss their need for support for the district's nutrition programs.
In a Wednesday meeting of the Tulsa City Council's urban and economic development committee, TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist said that when schools abruptly closed to in-person learning in the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, the district still managed to serve 1.5 million meals via deliveries and distributions.
However, Gist explained that the funding that goes toward staffing costs for the district's "child nutrition teams" of food-service employees comes from the United States Department of Agriculture, and is calculated based on the number of meals served in a given timeframe.
"Even though we served more than a million meals, a lot of meals, it's not as much as we would have served if we had been in school," Gist said. "That meant reduction to our ability to staff the service of the food. So we have a gap there that we're trying to meet."
"We're working right now to secure the additional waivers that we need to be able to provide it in the way that we need to provide it," Gist said.
"I will tell you that there is a challenge with the administrative dollars that are needed to carry out the program," Gist said, adding that the district may need to look for "stopgap" measures for the fall.
Councilor Lori Decter Wright offered Gist "any support we can provide" from the council, including rounding up volunteers from councilors' constituencies.
"I can't imagine anyone on this council would not go out and find their top volunteers across the city to show up and do those kinds of things, because at the end of the day, if kids are hungry and families are hungry, it's hard to log in and learn, especially in this new adaptive environment that we're all adjusting to," said Decter Wright.
Tulsa Public Schools' Board of Education recently voted to begin the school year virtually due to the severity of Tulsa County's COVID-19 outbreak, on the recommendation of Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart.