When schools shut down in-person learning back in March, it meant that families utilizing the free or reduced-price lunch program might not have access to those meals while classes were not in session.
The School District immediately applied for and received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of need, during remote learning.
For the current school year, the District has again received funding from the USDA for a similar program.
“Cheshire has submitted its application to participate in the program and so we have been and will continue to provide free breakfast and lunch meals to all Cheshire Public School students and all resident children age 18 and under through December 31, 2020, the date this program has been extended through,” confirmed CPS Chief Operations Officer Vin Masciana. “We are making the free meals available to our students while in school as well as those who are remote learners and on a weekly pick-up basis for our remote students.”
According to Masciana, Cheshire has received a fixed reimbursement of $1.84 for breakfast and $3.41 for lunch per student from the USDA. This program has been extended to serve all Cheshire students, not just those who have opted for the free or reduced lunch option.
The program, which was put in place this past March by the USDA and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, is intended to help ensure that no child under the age of 18 goes without breakfast and lunch during the school year, while also helping families that may now be feeling a financial sting due to the economic instability created during the pandemic.
“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 Secretary Perdue, in a statement. “We appreciate the incredible efforts by our school food service 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.”
After Dec. 31, the USDA plans to reevaluate the program and, depending on how the nation is reacting at that time to the pandemic, make the decision as to whether to extend the offering.
According to the District, approximately 15% of students take advantage of the free and reduced lunch program each year in Cheshire. When the offering was expanded to all students in the spring, the District scheduled specific days on which families could come and pick up the meals at Dodd Middle School.
As Director of Food and Nutrition Services Madeleine Diker explained to The Herald at the time, families in Cheshire immediately began signing up for the meals once word spread.
“We had about 325 students registered on the first day, and then about 675 on the second,” Diker noted, back in April.