School District of Tomahawk to offer free meals through end of 2020
USDA extends ‘several flexibilities’ to allow districts to provide meals at no cost
For the Tomahawk Leader
TOMAHAWK – The School District of Tomahawk will provide free meals to all students until the end of the year, thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s extension of its flexible free school meals program, put in place to help keep children fed as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the country.
“We have recently learned that the USDA has given school districts the ability to provide free meals to all of their students through Dec. 31, 2020,” School District of Tomahawk Food Service Director Dustin Tessmer said. “Effective Sept. 8, the School District of Tomahawk will be offering free meals, including breakfast and lunch, to any children residing in the district area to help ease the burden during these difficult times. All ‘In School’ students will receive a free lunch and breakfast daily.”
Tessmer noted there will still be a charge of $0.40 for elementary students’ milk break.
Students enrolled in virtual learning, middle school and high school students on remote learning days, including Fridays, and other community children ages 18 and younger can utilize the district’s drive-thru food service from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. daily, Tessmer said.
USDA extends ‘several flexibilities’
In a release from Monday, Aug. 31, USDA announced that it would “extend several flexibilities through as late as December 31, 2020.”
“The flexibilities allow summer meal program operators to continue serving free meals to all children into the fall months,” the statement said. “This unprecedented move will help ensure – no matter what the situation is on-the-ground – children have access to nutritious food as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA has been and continues to be committed to using the Congressionally appropriated funding that has been made available.”
Among the extended “suite of nationwide waivers for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO)” are allowing SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost, permitting meals to be served outside of the typically-required group settings and meal times, waiving meal pattern requirements as necessary, and allowing parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children, USDA said.
“As our nation reopens and people return to work, it remains critical our children continue to receive safe, healthy, and nutritious food. During the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA has provided an unprecedented amount of flexibilities to help schools feed kids through the school meal programs, and today, we are also extending summer meal program flexibilities for as long as we can, legally and financially,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in the release. “We appreciate the incredible efforts by our school foodservice professionals year in and year out, but this year we have an unprecedented situation. This extension of summer program authority will employ summer program sponsors to ensure meals are reaching all children – whether they are learning in the classroom or virtually – so they are fed and ready to learn, even in new and ever-changing learning environments.”
“School Nutrition Association greatly appreciates USDA addressing the critical challenges shared by our members serving students on the frontlines these first weeks of school. These waivers will allow school nutrition professionals to focus on nourishing hungry children for success, rather than scrambling to process paperwork and verify eligibility in the midst of a pandemic,” said School Nutrition Association (SNA) President Reggie Ross, SNS. “We look forward to continuing our dialogue with USDA to ensure school meal programs are equipped to meet the future needs of America’s students.”