Families who have received free meals for children over the summer through the Superior School District should expect changes Sept. 1.
The plan for food service remains fluid, but Food Service Director Jamie Wilson said there will be fewer distribution sites, families will have to pay for meals unless children qualify for free lunch, and students will have to be enrolled in school and provide an ID number to receive a meal.
The district has served more than 275,000 free meals to children since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down school buildings in March.
“We started this March 23, and we walked into this totally blind. We had no idea what to expect,” said Superior High School head cook Terri Mehtala. “We were amazed at the people who came and really appreciated what we were doing.”
Wilson said the team of food service and transportation staff have been distributing an average of 2,500 meals a day. The district provides a pack that includes both breakfast and lunch from 11 different community sites in Superior and along three rural bus routes. About four weeks in, they began offering hot lunch at both SMS and SHS.
The current delivery model is being run under the summer food service program, which provides free meals to all children age 18 and under regardless of enrollment. The program is possible because of the high percentage of students in the district who qualify for free and reduced price lunch.
When school starts, however, food service will be run under the National School Lunch Program. The program provides free universal breakfast for Superior students, as well as free after-school meals for children 18 and under community-wide. Milk is provided at lunch and for a snack to students, but must be paid for unless a child qualifies for free lunch. Only enrolled students with an ID number may receive the food.
The hybrid teaching model adopted by the district will further restrict food service options, especially for virtual learners. Food service staff will be busy serving in-school meals four days a week and unable to bring food out to the community.
“We have currently no planned meal delivery for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday,” Wilson told members of the Superior Board of Education during its Monday, Aug. 7 meeting. “That’s important because I know that our families are going to be looking for that.”
He’s in the process of putting together a plan to continue offering meal pick-up at Superior middle and high schools for virtual learners. Parents may have to pre-order meals.
“We have no problem feeding kids in the buildings when they’re in school. We’re good at that,” Wilson said. “We have no problem feeding them out in the community when they’re not in school. We’ve gotten really good at that, too. It’s just when they’re in both places, some kids in school and some kids out in the community, that’s when it’s really hard for us.”
Wilson is watching for any changes to the National School Lunch program. The Washington Post reported that the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act, which would provide universal free breakfast and lunch to all children, regardless of income, was introduced in Congress July 30. There has been no movement on the bill, Wilson said.
School starts in less than three weeks. The food service director said that gives the district plenty of time to put a plan in place. The current food delivery program was put in place over the week of spring break.
“We are going to do everything we can in our department to feed kids and to get meals to all students. I think we’ve really proven since March that that’s our goal,” Wilson said. “But I can’t guarantee they’re going to get out to everyone the way they are now.”
Wilson plans to email families when meal options for the school year are set. People can also watch for information on Facebook.