BELLE — Maries County R-2 Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham announced the district began a free breakfast and lunch meal program Wednesday, Sept. 2, and parents of e-learners have been notified …
BELLE — Maries County R-2 Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham announced the district began a free breakfast and lunch meal program Wednesday, Sept. 2, and parents of e-learners have been notified and are being provided for as well.
The free summer school meal program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extended its free summer meal program for all Missouri students in grades K-12 through Dec. 31.
“The USDA did a waiver and we started feeding kids for free at the high school yesterday,” Basham said during a Sept. 3 phone call. “We have already implemented the program.”
Liz Prater, the district’s Oppa! foodservice provider contacted Basham directly after receiving the news.
“She came to me and said we could implement the program immediately and had everything worked out,” Basham said.
They have not had anyone approach them about providing meals to younger siblings of students who are not yet attending school.
“It is provided for all of those kids in quarantine of course,” Basham added.
The middle and elementary school students are already participating in a free lunch program. The program extends the benefit to high school students through the Dec. 31 cutoff.
“She (Prater) said she has already seen an increase in student meals,” Basham said.
The Gasconade County R-2 School District began implementing the program on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner said they are also implementing the program for in-seat and e-learners only.
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 Sept. 4, 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 foodservice. 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.