Jefferson County: School food program extends

Meals available free through year

PORT TOWNSEND — The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended its waiver program to offer free meals to students through the end of the school year.

Announced on Oct. 9, the change means public school districts can provide meals to students through June 30, 2021, an extension from the initial end date of Dec. 18.

“As our nation recovers and reopens, we want to ensure that children continue to receive the nutritious breakfasts and lunches they count on during the school year wherever they are, and however they are learning,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a press release.

“We are grateful for the heroic efforts by our school food service professionals who are consistently serving healthy meals to kids during these trying times, and we know they need maximum flexibility right now.”

Each district has been feeding students who attend in-person through the normal cafeteria, but for those studying only online and students who are not attending in person on particular days, a variety of strategies are being used for food pick-up and delivery.

Port Townsend

In addition to providing free meals to students at school, the Port Townsend School District has a pick-up and delivery option for meals, said Sarah Rubenstein, communications director.

Meals can be picked up at Salish Coast Elementary from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and are available for any youth between the ages of 1-18, not just students, Rubenstein said.

A meal delivery service is available for families who are unable to pick up meals.

Those who need delivery are encouraged to contact Food Services Director Stacey Larsen at [email protected].

Larson said she appreciates the expansion of the service for students.

“Extending free meals to all families through the end of the school year relieves some of the pressure facing families right now,” Larson said. “Anything that the schools can do to support families during these trying times is important.”

Chimacum

In addition to the free meals for in-person students, Chimacum School District has free meals available for all children 18 and younger. They can be picked up from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday at the multi-purpose building.

Food Services Director Margaret Garrett appreciates the program, and she hopes more families will utilize it.

She said overall use is down, even for students who are taking in-person classes.

“I feel like there are a lot of families who are not taking advantage of this, that we were feeding so many more families in the springtime when we were doing delivery, which we can’t do because we have kids in school right now,” she said. “Even with the students who are here, we’re not feeding everyone we can.

“This is an amazing opportunity to help out everyone across the board. Every child can get fed.”

Quilcene

In addition to the free meals for students in brick-and-mortar classrooms, Quilcene School District delivers meals to families on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the days students are not attending in person, said Superintendent Frank Redmon.

The program extension is beneficial for all families, Redmon said.

“This will have a positive impact on our students and their families, as it helps ensure that a nutritious breakfast and lunch — a foundational need for learning — is available every school day of the year,” he said.

“With the impact of COVID on who comes to school each day and the potential for changes in our ability to offer in-person learning, having consistency in food service removes one barrier for students to continue to engage in learning.”

Brinnon

Brinnon School District delivers weekly food boxes to families and to bus stops for families that requested it, in addition to the at-school meals, Superintendent Trish Beathard said.

“Free meals are an important way for the Brinnon School to support our community,” Beathard said.

“It is going well. I think our families appreciate our efforts.”

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5 or at [email protected].

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