USDA extends summer meal program

Local schools to supply free meals to students through Dec. 31

By: Mary Beth Almond | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 17, 2020

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — Most local school districts have implemented virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but while buildings are closed, officials are making sure children still have access to nutritious food.

According to the West Bloomfield School District, the USDA has provided funding that allows the district to provide no-cost meals to all children. Lunch and breakfast meals will be no cost for all students until Dec. 31.

A school lunch includes an entrée, a grain, a fruit, a vegetable and milk.

District officials said that, if a doctor has determined a child has a disability — including food and milk allergies — that prevents a child from eating regular school meals, substitutions prescribed by a licensed physician will be made at no extra charge.

Students eligible for the Free and Reduced Meal benefits are also able to access six nonperishable meals each weekend from the Blessings in a Backpack program at no cost. Parents should look for a sign-up form in their school communications or email katherinesheiko@hotmail.com, district officials said. Blessings in a Backpack will distribute meals October-June.

Below are some of the program details found on the district’s website.

Remote-only students and in-person students at Doherty, Gretchko and Roosevelt, classroom 1/2 day only:

• No-cost meals are available for curbside pick-up at the front of West Bloomfield High School and Roosevelt Elementary School.

• All meals must be pre-ordered online.

• The curbside pick-up online order link can be found at WBSD.org under the Food Service tab.

• Pick-up day is Wednesday 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. or 4-5 p.m. at WBHS, or 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Roosevelt Elementary School.

• Each child will receive seven complete breakfast and lunch meals.

In-person students at Scotch and Sheiko elementary schools, and West Bloomfield Middle School, classroom 1/2 day only:

• No-cost meals are available for curbside pick-up at these building sites on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the car drop-off site and on each bus, or in front of West Bloomfield High School and Roosevelt Elementary School on Wednesdays.

• No pre-order is necessary for meals picked up at Scotch, Sheiko and West Bloomfield Middle School, but all meals from the West Bloomfield High School and Roosevelt sites must be pre-ordered online.

• A curbside pick-up online order link can be found at WBSD.org under the Food Service tab.

• Pick-up day is Wednesday 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. or 4-5 p.m. at WBHS, or 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Roosevelt Elementary School.

• Each child will receive seven complete breakfast and lunch meals

In-person learners attending Cloud Care:

• No-cost breakfast and hot lunch are available at each Cloud Care site.

• Meals will be individually portioned.

• Parents may order seven days of breakfast and lunch meals for Wednesday curbside pick-up at West Bloomfield High School and Roosevelt Elementary if no meals are ordered for Cloud Care.

On-site special education and Transition Center

• In-person meals will be ordered and delivered on-site.

• All remote-day meals will be available for curbside pick-up on Wednesdays at the high school.

For the 2019-2020 school year, Michigan had nearly 750,000 children eligible for the USDA’s National School Lunch Program, which allows children to get free or reduced-price meals at school due to low family income. This school year, officials expect the number of eligible children to increase due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture — which oversees national school lunch, breakfast, summer feeding and adult care food programs — has granted waivers to school districts, allowing more flexibility in providing children meals that would have otherwise been served at school. The waivers temporarily allow districts to serve meals to children in all geographical areas, free of charge, and give parents and guardians the ability to pick up multiple meals for their children via a grab-and-go service.

Over the past six months, the USDA’s partners across the country have set up nearly 80,000 sites, handing out meals at a higher rate than the traditional school-year program.

On Aug. 31, the same day the waivers were set to expire, the USDA extended the flexible free school meals program, allowing operators to continue serving free meals to all children younger than 18 and special education students younger than 26 through Dec. 31, or until funding is no longer available.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said it remains critical that children continue to receive safe, healthy and nutritious food throughout the pandemic.

“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,” Perdue said in a statement. “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.”

Oakland County has also established a help hotline to assist residents who may be in need of food or housing assistance at this time. The number there is (248) 858-1000, staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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