As more school districts face shutdowns due to the spreading COVID-19 pandemic, government officials and foodservice operators are working to make sure students don’t miss out on meals.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is encouraging states to individually apply for a waiver that would allow schools to offer grab-and-go meals to students at feeding sites in an effort to prevent crowds from congregating.
Congress has also introduced bills that would make meals more accessible for students during this time. The COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act, for example, would create a nationwide waiver that would enable schools to serve food across all nutrition programs and would also allow greater flexibility on meal components if procurement is disrupted. Other members of Congress have introduced the Pandemic EBT Act, which would allow states to extend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to those whose children’s schools are closed due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, foodservice teams across the country are gearing up to continue feeding kids in the event that their district will have to close. At Waltham County Schools in Waltham, Mass., the foodservice team is currently working with school officials to set up sites that would offer meals to students.
“Our students depend on school meals, and we plan to do our best to service the community during this time of uncertainty,” says Food Service Director April Liles. “Locations, service times, menus and distribution logistics are all to be announced at this time. However, administration meetings are taking place as we speak to gather intel and strategize on how to meet the needs of our students. Food access is extremely important to our school district and our team we will be ready to open sites when needed.”
Some districts that have already closed have begun operating meal sites where students can pick up a meal to go. Northshore School District in Bothell, Wash., has set up grab-and-go meal service at 22 school locations,with some allowing parents to also purchase meals for themselves. Parents and guardians can also request that the meals be delivered to their home if they and their children are unable to come to the site.
In addition, Elk Grove Unified School District in Elk Grove, Calif., is providing drive-thru meal serviceat 13 sites. Parents can pull up in their cars and receive to-go breakfast and lunch for their children.