Powell schools to provide free meals to all students

Posted 9/8/20

Local children will continue to receive free meals this fall, thanks to a federal program.

“… Hopefully with the extension of free meals to all students, it will be another less worry …

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Powell schools to provide free meals to all students

Posted

Local children will continue to receive free meals this fall, thanks to a federal program.

“… Hopefully with the extension of free meals to all students, it will be another less worry for parents as they send their children to school,” said Mary Jo Lewis, coordinator of business services for Park County School District No. 1.

The USDA announced last week that school districts could provide free meals for any child under the age of 18 through a COVID-19 Summer Food Service Program nationwide waiver.

“What this did was extend the Summer Food Service Program through December 2020,” Lewis explained in a Friday message.

The school district will operate as a program site under the waiver. All the students enrolled will be able to receive free meals, whether they are eating breakfast and/or lunch at the physical school building or picking up meal(s) and eating them at home while learning virtually.

However, it is closed and available only to those who are enrolled at that site.

“We are working on the details for serving kids that don’t attend our public schools or the under [age] 5 population if we can find a community partner to host as a serving and preparation site,” Lewis said. “At this time, this program is not in place in the Park 1 school district.”

The district’s food service director, Jill Queen, and Lewis met with the Wyoming Department of Education food service staff to make sure that they clearly understood the details of what is and isn’t allowed with this waiver, since students are now in school.

Free meals for enrolled students in Park 1 started Thursday.

“We will continue to serve the same breakfast and lunch menu that has been posted to our website and at your schools for the students that are physically at school,” Lewis said.

Ala carte purchases, extra milks and adult meals are all still fully paid and are not subject to the free meals waiver, she said.

“Adults must have money on their accounts at the schools for any meals they are purchasing or can pay cash in the line, but they do not receive free meals,” Lewis said.

There also is a charge for milk if a student is bringing a meal from home, as it is not subject to the free meal waiver.

The district still needs to have applications for free and reduced meals completed by Oct. 1. That count is used for multiple other programs and funding sources, Lewis noted.

“If they are not completed by the October date, any students that remain will go to paid status and will have to pay full price beginning in January without the current SFSP [Summer Food Service Program] waiver,” she said. “We don’t want this to happen to students or parents.”

Title I funding is determined by the free and reduced meal count, as well as at-risk funding, “so it is very important and is also impactful of whether we qualify for other federal funding,” Lewis said.

After schools closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school district provided free meals through the end of the school year, serving a total of 71,362 meals (both breakfasts and lunches). Through Powell Valley Healthcare, the Summer Food Service Program provided 6,208 free meals to local children this summer.

Lewis thanked school staff and the community “for all your help in getting our school year off to a great start for our students.”

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