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Schools across Mid-Missouri provide free meals for students amid pandemic

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KMIZ
Columbia Public School buses

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Multiple Mid-Missouri school districts are making meals free to families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some districts are utilizing a grant from the US Department of Agriculture that was extended through the end of the year.

According to a news release from the USDA, the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option have been extended through Dec. 31 or until available federal funds run out.  

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in the release the extension will help ensure that all children, no matter the situation, will have access to nutritious food as the country recovers from the pandemic. 

Columbia Public Schools

Columbia Public Schools sent out an email Tuesday with an update to the meal delivery process for families in Columbia. 

All students ages 2-18 can receive a meal regardless if they qualify for the free and reduced-price meal program. 

CPS Nutrition Services Director Laina Fullum said that the district is fortunate for the extension from USDA.

“It allows us to serve all of our meals for free,” Fullum said. “The reason that is important is because on those routes we don’t have to track students as closely. We do take their numbers but we can also feed their siblings that are not enrolled.”

Fullum said that the free grab-and-go meal service is available to all students.

She said if a child that is not enrolled in a CPS school is getting a meal, the child’s name, parent/guardian information and contact information will need to be provided. 

CPS Parent Jennifer Roberts said said after CPS announced the grab and go meal service was available for all families,  her neighborhood began organizing a way to pick and deliver meals for students in their neighborhood.

She said it’s nice that CPS is offering meals to all students because some families are now experiencing hardships due to the pandemic that didn’t experience them before.

“People that didn’t use to have hardships are now facing hardships because they are staying home with their kids,” Roberts said. “Having to prepare lunch may not sound like a big deal but it kind of is.”

Roberts said the neighborhood delivered 42 meals on Wednesday and it is able to work out for them because they have a neighborhood Facebook page.

“We had 27 kids signed up for lunches and we had 4 drivers and a day later, today, we delivered 42 lunches to kids and we have 8 drivers signed up now," Roberts said.

She said that it is awesome to be able to brighten the student's day and she said it also brightens her day.

A list of bus stops for the meal service can be found on the district's website. In addition to the bus stops, meals can be picked up from four school buildings that will have nutrition services staff available from 9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

Meals can be picked up at the following schools: Hickman High School, Lange Middle School, Smithton Middle School, John Warner Middle School.

Fullum said she started working with public relations to create a better map for families to know where the closest route is to their home. 

“That’s been a complication,” Fullum said. “A lot of time you don’t know the streets around you, let alone a bus route we’re utilizing that’s close to them, so I think that will be helpful.”

Fullum said that she thinks there are a few things that could be improved with the bus routes but that it is just a matter of tweaking. She said the parental feedback has been helping them to know what improvements to make.

Families that live too far away from the bus stops or the four schools can contact the student’s school building. The district is working to make sure that all students can get a meal, Fullum said.

Jefferson City School District

The Jefferson City School District announced in an email to families recently the district qualified for the USDA extension and began offering free meals Tuesday at no charge to students in all buildings.

The email also said that if the USDA were to announce that federal funding is no longer available, students would be charged for meals again. 

JC Schools encouraged families that may qualify for free or reduced-price meals to still apply for the 2020-2021 school year. According to the email, applications from the 2019-2020 school year will expire on Oct. 5. 

Applications for JC Schools free and reduced lunch program can be found on the district's website.

New Bloomfield R-III

New Bloomfield R-III announced on Facebook the school district will also offer free meals to students beginning Wednesday. 

All students including those that qualify for free and reduced-price meals, as well as, full-price meals will be able to receive free breakfast and lunch until Dec. 18. 

Columbia Public Schools / Education / Jefferson City Public Schools / K-12 education / News / Top Stories

Riane Cleveland

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