New map helps more families find free summer meal programs for kids
Hunger Free Oklahoma and Code for Tulsa launched an online map to help Oklahoma families easily locate summer meal programs which help children access nourishing meals at no cost.
As the fun of summer nears, it also signals the end of school meals, which for the 425,000 Oklahoma kids who eat free and reduced price meals at school, means missing a reliable source of nutrition. The Summer Food Service Program branded ‘Food 4 Thought OK’ is a USDA program administered by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. It works to combat childhood hunger by partnering with school districts, local nonprofits and faith-based organizations to provide meals at no-cost to kids 18 years old and younger.
“One in five children in our state experiences hunger,” said Oklahoma State Department of Education’s State Superintendent, Joy Hofmeister, “and the Summer Food Service Program connects kids 18 and under with no-cost meals, no questions asked. Last year, we increased the number of summer meals served by 14 percent over the year before. With this new mapping tool, even more families will have consistent access to summer meals at the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger. With ample research indicating that proper nutrition has a strong and positive impact on academic outcomes, it is critical that students have access to healthy meals in the summer months so they can return to school ready to learn in the fall.”
Along with providing the location and details of Oklahoma's summer meal sites, the map contains the following key features:
- Accessible by any internet-capable device. Because it is a web address, families will have more than one way to access the map.
- Geolocation. This feature identifies the user’s location in real-time so that families do not have to manually enter a zip code. It also prompts directions from the current location to the summer meals site selected.
- Updates throughout the entire summer. As changes to summer meal sites become available, Hunger Free Oklahoma and the Oklahoma State Department of Education will be updating the map to ensure that families have the most up-to-date information offered.
"We know from past experiences that locating summer meals is a huge obstacle for families and with Code for Tulsa's partnership we can effectively remove that barrier by creating an accessible, online map,” said Richard Comeau, Program Director with Hunger Free Oklahoma.
The partnership created between Code for Tulsa, a community of software developers and graphic designers, and Hunger Free Oklahoma, a statewide anti-hunger organization, was a logical and natural collaboration.
"This is a powerful demonstration of a few simple web-based technologies being leveraged to provide very useful information, in a new way that's accessible from any web-enabled device," said Carlos Moreno, Co-Captain of Code for Tulsa.
“Since Hunger Free Oklahoma is on the front lines of food security issues in the state, we rely on them to inform us as to where the biggest needs are,” said Moreno, “while we help inform them about how to deliver information in a way that is easy, efficient, and cost-effective.”
Research shows that kids who suffer from food insecurity are more likely to have behavioral and attention problems, score lower on math, reading, and science tests, and be at a higher risk for obesity and chronic illnesses. While school is out, the Summer Food Service Program is designed to reduce these risks by ensuring children have access to meals and this new map will improve accessibility.
The summer meals map website is included on all state department branded outreach materials used at participating summer meal sites.
To access the map, please visit www.meals4kidsok.org.
The HFO mission is to leverage the power of collaboration to solve hunger in Oklahoma by improving systems, policies, and practices. Learn more at www.HungerFreeOK.org
The community of developers that makes up Code for Tulsa has been building civic apps since 2011. They are programmers, graphic designers, PR/Marketing professionals, and all of them have a huge heart for making Tulsa a better place to live, work, and play. Code for Tulsa has worked with Tulsa Transit, the Tulsa Fire Department, the Tulsa City-County Library, the local food bank, the regional planning authority, and FEMA. Learn more at https://codefortulsa.org/about/