Oklahoma Black-Owned Community Centers Claim Their Food Programs Have Been Unjustly Targeted And Fined
Several Oklahoma Black-owned community centers and daycare providers claim their free food programs have been unjustly shut down and that the fines they face are rooted in discrimination. Now, they’re preparing to fight back against the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Office of Child Nutrition Programs.
The business owners claim they’d successfully run food programs for those in need for years until 2021, when many found themselves audited and facing insurmountable fines to keep their doors open.
“We’ve always serviced underprivileged kids in underprivileged areas,” said Gina Darby, who began feeding students through her program Impact Athletics Inc. in 2014. “And throughout those years, we never had deficiencies, never had problems with our program.”
Darby suddenly found herself at the mercy of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), who filed a corrective action plan against her that she appealed. After trying to continue her efforts with help from the local community, Darby was forced to stop her program.
“After about a year of feeding on our own, it just becomes too much … so many of us were already donating so much that we just couldn’t continue,” she said.
Impact Athletics Inc. is not the only program in Oklahoma that has had to face the choice to continue servicing their communities or stop completely, a decision that would leave many in dire need, the programs claim.
Tarria and Choncey Bradford own Little Aggies Learning Adventure, a childcare center in Oklahoma City, which was disqualified from the CACFP by the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Office of Child Nutrition Programs. The department cited a lack of paperwork as the reason behind its decision; the Bradfords allege the reasoning is false.
“I tried to make sure all my paperwork was dotted and crossed, and it wasn’t enough for them,” said Tarria. “We got audited, and they said none of my paperwork matched, and they wasn’t there to train me, to show me…that’s why I’m off the program today.”
The Bradfords insist they personally delivered all necessary documentation to keep their food services available to needy children; however, they allege that the paperwork does not exist in the system. Still, Little Aggies Learning Adventure refuses to turn its back on the children it serves; to do so would mean a lack of proper nutrition for some.
“I can’t let them kids starve…to see a kid not to eat, it’s not right, it’s not right … that’s what’s going on at Lil Aggies,” Tarria said.
The Oklahoma City Branch of the NAACP has gotten involved in an attempt to prove the Oklahoma State Department of Education “intentionally, knowingly, and willfully closed Black-owned businesses based on imagined ‘deficiencies’ of a food program.”