The state education department uncovered a record amount of fraud at child-feeding sites across Oklahoma, the department said in a news release.
More than $1.6 million in federal funds were improperly claimed for reimbursement since April 2020, officials said. The majority of improper claims were reported at child-care sites.
Oklahoma State Department of Education's office of child nutrition services uncovered the fraudulent activity through a number of accountability measures.
“We are incredibly grateful for our schools and community partners that stepped up to ensure the nutritional needs of children were met over the last year, as hundreds of schools provided summer meals for the first time. Oklahoma families rely on these services, and we are committed to ensuring integrity for these programs that fuel young learners,” state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said. “Oklahoma will continue to leverage federal dollars to help our children gain supports to be healthy and successful, and it is our charge to safeguard that valuable investment by taxpayers.”
OSDE's summer food service program participation soared by more than 700% during the pandemic. Program sites served more than 13 million meals to children from May to August in 2020. The program served 1.6 million meals from the same period in 2019.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended additional flexibilities to program providers for the last 12 months. The relaxed rules included allowing sites to offer to-go meals so children would not have to eat in congregated settings.