Area child nutrition programs seeing demand increase due to universal free meals

Marcy Rutland and her staff at Owasso Public Schools’ Child Nutrition Office are doing their best to keep the chicken nuggets, pizza and flatbread sandwiches coming.  

In April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service announced the extension of multiple COVID-19 related waivers for school districts’ child nutrition programs through the 2021-2022 school year. Among those waivers was one providing free school meals for all children, regardless of their income level. 

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For several area school districts, those waivers have meant more children picking up a tray and going through the cafeteria line or having their parents pick up a meal via curbside service. Since classes started, breakfast participation has already increased by a third at Owasso Public Schools from 2020-2021.   

“We’re serving kids we’ve never served before,” Rutland said. “Our meal counts have skyrocketed.”

To the south, Jenks Public Schools is also seeing an increased demand at lunch, including among older students. Pat Meadows, the director of Jenks Public Schools’ child nutrition department, said that although they are having to deal with some last-minute menu changes due to supply chain issues, school lunch participation has risen by 301 meals on an average day just at Jenks High School. 

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“This is a great opportunity to feed all students for free,” Meadows said. “Proper nutrition is so very important to a student’s learning process.”  


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