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Free school meals for students extended

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 9:04 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it’s extending the summer meal program to give free school meals to kids until the end of the calendar year or until funding for the program runs out.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, between mid-March and Aug. 20 more than 31 million meals were served to students in the state.

Those meals were given out through federal programs, which are being extended a few more months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students across Wisconsin, and the nation, will get free school meals for at least a little while longer.

“I was extremely happy to hear the announcement. I guess I hoped there would be a little bit more time in between because it was literally the next morning but I’ll take it any way we can,” said ECASD Director of Food Nutrition Joshua Guckenberg.

On Monday, the USDA announced it was extending its summer meal program which provides the opportunity for all students to get free breakfast and/or lunches

“We’re seeing families are struggling in different areas, maybe they lost a job or they’re just getting their jobs back and if this can take one more stress out of their lives and help them it’s really a benefit to the kids and to the families,” said Menomonie School District Nutrition Director Michelle Kloser.

The free school meals are available at both the Menomonie and Eau Claire school districts for all students, both those who take classes in-person or virtually.

Under the program, the meals at no cost will last through Dec. 31 or until the funding for the program runs out.

“They are available for anyone 18 years of age or younger. So we have pick-up sites available at our secondary levels, which are our three middle schools and two high schools,” explained Guckenberg.

In Menomonie, Kloser says over the first three days of school each day has seen more meals be served.

“The food that we offer the kids is really good quality, high quality food. They get salads that are organic, romaine lettuce that’s local. We provide really healthy, nutritional meals which benefits the kids in the classroom,” she said.

The free meals are yet another change in a school year that is anything but normal.

In terms of food service at the Eau Claire Area School District, all meals will be pre-packaged, the cafeteria will be cleaned daily, and social distancing will be observed.

At ECASD, the meal pick up times at the five secondary schools are from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

The district says a lot of questions remain on how the program will work, and are waiting on guidance from the state’s DPI.

For more information about your local district’s meal policy, reach out to their nutrition director.

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