Food service director awaiting details of free meal program

John Richmeier

The federal government has extended a program that was used by local school districts to provide free meals to children earlier this year while schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cynthia Schrader, director of Child Nutrition for the Leavenworth Public Schools, is pleased the program is being extended. But she was waiting Tuesday to learn more details about how the federal program will be operated during the fall semester.

Local school systems were allowed to use what is traditionally a federally-supported summer food service program to provide free meals to children this past spring after schools were ordered closed by the governor.

The Leavenworth public schools offered this free meal service from March 26 through Aug. 14.

“That had to end when school started,” Schrader said.

Or at least that is what she thought.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, announced Monday that the free meal service will be extended to as late as Dec. 31.

“As our nation reopens and people return to work, it remains critical our children continue to receive safe, healthy and nutritious food,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a news release.

Schrader called the announcement a “wonderful thing.” She said the program allows for the flexibility of non-congregate dining for students who are receiving remote instruction.

She said the program also offers a meal pattern that is more accommodating for grab and go or carryout meals. She said most schools that are having in-person classes during the pandemic are utilizing a grab and go style of food service.

Lansing Superintendent Dan Wessel did not know Tuesday if the Lansing district will be participating in the free meal service during the fall semester.

Wessel said he will be discussing the matter today with the district’s food service director.

Wessel said the Lansing district had announced a different plan for providing meals to remote learners Monday shortly before the USDA made its announcement.

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