The Maple School Board approved extending free lunch for students through the 2021-2022 school year at its Monday, July 19, regular board meeting. Superior also plans to extend the option, but does not need to put the measure before the school board, officials told the Telegram.
Free meals were provided to students in the 2020-2021 school year at no cost to the districts through the federal Seamless Summer Option program.
“We had a fairly high reimbursement rate for that,” said Paul Staffrude, the Maple School District's business manager, and the district’s food service balance rose by $80,000.
The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service in April extended the program through the coming school year. The move offers access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19, according to the USDA.
The rising food service balance cannot be transferred to any other fund, Staffrude said. It could be used for food service-related costs, such as replacing an outdated dishwashing system or purchasing a new delivery van. Another option would be to lower lunch prices in future years to spend down the balance.
“It’s wonderful for all our parents. No cost for any of the meals,” said Maple District Administrator Sara Croney.
The program requires that the districts offer take-home meals for distance learning students at two sites. In Maple, those are Northwestern High School and Iron River Elementary School.
The Superior School District is currently serving about 1,800 free meals a week to students age 18 and younger in the community, said Jamie Wilson, director of food service for the Superior School District. The food service team distributes meals at summer school locations, city park and recreation program sites and along city and rural bus routes. Curbside meal pickup is also available at Superior High School from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
No board action is needed to continue providing meals at no cost to families, but Wilson plans to update Superior School Board members on the extension in August.