On October 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture extended the Summer Food Service Program, giving schools the ability to cater healthy meals free of charge to students until June 30. The school will provide lunches in sealed, pre-packaged containers in the cafeteria, or through meal packs that fully remote students can pick up weekly.
The Summer Food Service Program was originally a federally funded, state administered program that granted schools the ability to serve healthy lunches to students in low-income areas. By extending the program, the USDA gave schools the ability to serve free meals to students regardless of their financial situation throughout the school year.
At the high school, students can pick up lunches at the cafeteria without pre-ordering in the morning. Meanwhile, at the middle school, students and parents must order lunches through an online form. They can order for a single day or arrange lunches for the entire week. For elementary schools, teachers will tally lunch orders in the morning and send them to the kitchen staff who then deliver them by lunchtime.
Fully remote students can order meal packs that contain five days worth of meals for the entire school week. Students can pick up these packs on Wednesdays and will be supplied with lunches that can be reheated in a microwave or oven. They contain five breakfasts and five lunches, with ten milks and ten different meals. For those eating lunch at school, students have a choice between three different sandwiches, salads, an entree pizza, or three to four different options from Ruby’s Grill.
Students are not only able to enjoy a range of meal options through the lunch program, but are also given the traditional convenience of it.
“I think having a variety of free school lunches is really good, since students can still have a choice in what they eat and also have the convenience of not packing their own lunch,” said Lily Haspel ’23
In order to preserve safety standards for COVID-19, the cafeteria staff limited food choices to easily-packaged items.
“Sometimes the food choice can be a bit bland, but it’s understandable due to the limitations. It’s also really nice that the food is free,” said Jocelyn Li ’23
The cafeteria staff also follow rigorous guidelines to ensure a safe environment where they prepare food. Matt Delaney, the Food Services Director for the district, works with his staff to ensure safe and nutritious lunches for all students.
“Lunches are pre-packaged by Whitsons, the schools catering service, at their USDA facility… and the staff work hard to manage food temperatures, follow social distancing guidelines, and create a safe environment,” said Delaney.
However, the high school cafeteria also aims to expand the menu to include items that were sold in previous years but removed due to COVID-19.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to provide tater tots or french fries… along with cookies, which were a huge hit when they were introduced. We also plan on adding Frito-Lay packaged snacks which have been mainstays at the high school,” said Delaney.
The lunch staff also are looking into providing more personalized options in meals, such as adding customizable sandwiches so students have more choice when it comes to ordering. They also will continue to serve breakfast for students from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM and encourage students to partake in them.
“In the end, our job here is to make sure that kids get food during the day, so that they’re getting replenished with nourishing food and able to complete their studies,” said Delaney.