Following the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement that they would extend a summer meal program for students through Dec. 31, at least 14 students participating in …
Following the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement that they would extend a summer meal program for students through Dec. 31, at least 14 students participating in e-learning classes this quarter joined the pickup program.
Megan Silvers, a secretary for the food service program at Owensville Elementary School, is coordinating the project for the Gasconade County R-2 School District. The program that was announced on Friday would include free breakfast and lunch to all students in each school and students participating in e-learning curriculum from home. Parents were asked to contact Silvers over the weekend to sign up.
“Before we got the info about the meals being free, we were already doing distance-learning meals for students,” Silvers said. “At the beginning of the year we asked everyone if they wanted to pick up meals and 27 students who were eligible for free or reduced meals signed up. Since we went free on Friday we had an increase of 14 students.”
Silvers said she has reached out to all parents of distance learners about the new free meal program.
“Parents will always pick up their meals on Monday between 8:20 and 9 a.m at the cafeteria doors behind the school unless Monday is a holiday, then they will pick up meals the following day,” Silvers said.
Parents will go to whichever school their children attend to pick up meals.
“For example, if a parent has a student at OES and OMS, the parents will go to each school to pick up their meals,” Silvers said.
For in-seat students, free meals began on Friday. Parents of e-learners made their pick up at their children’s respective schools on Tuesday. Anyone who would like to participate in the free meal program should contact Silvers at email@example.com to sign up or call 437-2171 extension 3220.
“They can talk to anyone in the office or leave a note for me,” Silvers said.
Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner announced Friday that the USDA’s free meal program for students in grades K-12 automatically enrolled in-seat students.
“Right now that is just for students in schools and e-learners,” Garner said.
He said the district had initially asked for clarification as to whether siblings of school-aged students would qualify. Garner was unsure when the program would be able to be implemented until they could work out the kinks and make sure it didn’t take students more time to get through the lunch lines. However, by Friday, they made the announcement that the program was ready to go.
“We are going to increase participation and should also increase our speed to get through the lunch line,” Garner said. “We are not having to stop every kid with this.”
While students will not have to stop and access their lunch account to pay, the district will still have to keep track of who goes through the line when they pass the point-of-service-counter (cashier) without deducting from the student’s account.
According to a USDA press release on Aug. 31, extending the summer meal program that feeds all students free of charge into the fall months helps ensure that all children have access to nutritious food as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Garner said he and other administrators met for the second time on Sept. 3 to discuss how to implement the new program.
“It is similar to the program we ran in June,” Garner said. “We asked a couple of clarifying things to ensure that we are following the guidelines that we set forth for the food service. There are specific requirements you have to meet to provide that and make sure we meet those standards and develop protocols to do that for all of the kids.”
Some of the questions included how they would keep track of the students and meals. Regardless, Garner said it would be a benefit to the district to be able to provide the program to students and parents. The R-2 program complies with USDA non-discrimination regulations, noted Silvers.