As the school year ends, free student lunch programs provided during remote classes are winding down after serving approximately 2,300 meals at Lone Tree, more than 20,000 at Highland and nearly …
As the school year ends, free student lunch programs provided during remote classes are winding down after serving approximately 2,300 meals at Lone Tree, more than 20,000 at Highland and nearly 23,500 at Mid-Prairie according to superintendents.
The U.S. Food and Nutrition Service waived many nutritional requirements of school lunches for the home stretch of the 2019-20 school year to facilitate off-campus meals that had to prioritize non-perishability.
Waivers allowed families to access these meals at no cost, regardless of their eligibility for free and reduced school lunch under normal conditions. These exemptions are not indefinite, however, and will soon come to an end.
The Lone Tree and Highland districts discontinued their student meal programs for the summer, citing decreasing demand and the ability of local food banks to help those still in need.
“Our food banks both feel they are pretty well-stocked and ready to take on that challenge,” Lone Tree and Highland Superintendent Ken Crawford said. “We had a large surge early in the pandemic in March and April, but in May things started to dwindle off, so both of the nutrition directors thought if we stop this, the food banks can handle anything that comes their way.”
At Mid-Prairie, the school lunch waiver has been extended into part of the summer, with the last distributions coming June 29, at which point waivers will expire and renovations will leave school kitchens unusable for the rest of the break according to Superintendent Mark Schneider.
“We’re trying the best we can to be prepared for the future,” Schneider said. “Unfortunately, without an idea of what that future will look like, it’s hard to know what we need or how to be prepared.”
Alternative summer lunch programs have met their own hurdles.
Food for All Mid-Prairie, a local charity organization, will not be hosting summer lunches in June.
Co-coordinator Kim Lehman said the in-person gatherings would be too risky as they rely on volunteers in high-risk age groups and typically gather around 40 people.
The meals would normally be held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday over the summer but are suspended until further notice according to the organization’s Facebook page.
“We will continue to examine the options as the summer progresses, and if we feel that a time comes that we can safely get back together again, we will try and make it happen,” the post read. “Until then, stay safe, healthy and remember you are in our thoughts and prayers.”