OSDE Uncovers $1.6 Million In Fraud At Child Feeding Sites

Monday, June 7th 2021, 4:02 pm


The Oklahoma State Department of Education has uncovered more than $1 million in fraudulent claims at child feeding sites.

The state superintendent said the department oversees hundreds of meal sites in Oklahoma. Those are used at places like schools, day cares but also standalone summer feeding programs.

The money involved was federal funds for the Child Nutrition Program, totaling $1.6 million.

"This is the work of the office that we do year-round," said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

But with the pandemic, the need was great, and more flexibility was given to ensure children were fed.

Hofmeister said accountability and the department's process for checking claims didn't change.

"In that process we have been able to uncover fraud, schemes of fraud and then took that through the process of actually an administrative law judge and we won our cases," said Hofmeister.

News 9 asked if all of those funds were paid out.

"In some cases, yes that's correct," Hofmeister said. "In other cases, its simply denying them the reimbursement that would ordinarily be due."

Hofmeister told News 9 none of the organizations flagged were school districts. News 9 did request a list of the organizations involved, but those details have not been released yet.

OSDE will now move on to the recovery process.

"We are pursuing those both in our own agency recovering them, where some have delivered a check to repay," Hofmeister said. "Others will require going through the collections process, through the AG office and through the court system."

The department is also working with law enforcement when necessary, but thousands have already started being paid back.

Hofmeister said when fraud is detected, those organizations will not be able to participate in the program ever again.

"We know that in Oklahoma we lead the nation in one of the states that actually have a high level of food insecurities," she said. "So, our children need this. We can't be deterred by bad actors."