The U.S. Department of Agriculture is extending waivers that allow schools to offer free grab-and-go meals to any student, regardless of eligibility.
Several school districts in Washington and Greene counties are taking advantage of the extension, which well enable them to provide a free breakfast and lunch to children ages 2 to 18, regardless of their family’s income or whether they attend classes in person or online. Children in day care also are eligible.
It is intended to assist school districts and families as they continue to address the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Canon-McMillan School District is among the local districts to participate.
“During these times when we need everyone to stay healthy, you cannot beat the idea of receiving a free, well-balanced meal,” said Superintendent Michael Daniels. “Canon-McMillan is happy to have been granted permission from the state to serve free breakfasts and lunches to every child in our community, pre-kindergarten to 18 years of age, through the end of December 2020.”
According to the district, nearly 98,600 meals have been served through its program since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lunches will include an entrée, fresh vegetables, fruit and milk. Cereal and other assorted breakfast items, along with juice and milk, will be provided for breakfast.
Pickup bundles will be available at Canonsburg Middle School’s bus loop each Monday for remote students, or for hybrid students who are not in school.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “As our nation reopens and people return to work, it remains critical our children continue to receive safe, healthy and nutritious food.”
School districts are not required to offer a program, but Bethlehem-Center, California and Charleroi are among those who have chosen to participate.
Dr. Laura Jacob, superintendent of California Area School District, said about half the district’s students qualify for free or reduced priced meals.
Jacob said eating three healthy meals a day is essential to students’ learning.
“Ensuring that all children have three healthy meals each day is associated with better grades, reduced absenteeism, and improved memory,” said Jacob.
Charleroi business manager Joseph Gudac said during the summer, the school district at times served more than 200 meals a day at five sites throughout the district.
“Not only have we been able to offer food to those in need, but we have also been able to provide continued employment for our cafeteria staff,” noted Gudac.
He emphasized that, at Charleroi, the child doesn’t need to be there when food is picked up and that one person can pick up meals for multiple recipients.