TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — The Oklahoma State Department of Education says it's uncovered more than $1.6 million of fraud at child-feeding sites across the state.
During the pandemic, schools, community organizations, and nonprofits have helped provide free meals to children.
OSDE found the $1.6 million in federal funds were improperly claimed for reimbursement since April 2020, most of which were reported at childcare sites.
The Department of Education's Office of Child Nutrition Services discovered the fraudulent activity when reviewing accountability measures, including an unannounced review process done in 2016 under State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
“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,” 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.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which financially supports multiple feeding programs for children, extended additional flexibilities to program providers over the past year. The relaxed rules let sites offer to-go meals to children.
Program sites served over 13 million meals to children between May and August 2020.
OSDE oversees the child-feeding sites administering the USDA programs, including public schools, day cares, juvenile centers, after-school programs, and stand-alone summer feeding programs.
During Hofmeister's tenure, the following feeding site regulations and accountability measures were introduced:
OSDE has not specified which sites in the state were committing the fraudulent activity.