The Uniontown Area School District has qualified for students to receive free breakfast and lunch during the 2020-21 school year.
“Starting Aug. 31, (all) students will be getting free meals,” said Chuck Brown, food service director for the district.
The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) first appeared on Brown’s radar about seven years ago, but the district didn’t qualify for the program until recently.
CEP requires at least 40% of students to be identified directly through programs like SNAP, TANF, Medicaid or are foster children or homeless.
When the district reached that figure, Brown applied for CEP. The district was approved last month.
Even though the district opted to do its first nine weeks of classes fully online due to COVID-19 concerns, Brown said students will still get their free meals.
“We’re going to distribute meals Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” Brown said.
Brown said an online ordering system is set up where parents can place orders, specifying what the students want to eat and what days they want their meals. They also have to include the student’s name so the district can accurately claim to the National School Lunch program which students are using the program as well as the person responsible for picking up the meals.
Brown said each bagged meal will contain the five components of the National School Lunch program as well as breakfast for the next morning.
“Obviously, this is a benefit for the parents because there’s no cost to them,” Brown said. “This also benefits the district as it gives us the opportunity to feed more kids who do not eat.”
Brown said the program also helps him as the district’s food director to plan better, it reduces administrative costs, eliminates tracking student lunch debt and provides program integrity as with having better records of students utilizing the program.
Brown said the program is on a four-year cycle as the district will apply again for CEP in 2024.
Brownsville Area School District, which is operating on a hybrid plan of in-school and remote learning, is also allowing parents or guardians to call by 9:30 a.m. to order meals for students at home, which are then prepared and available to be picked up curbside at the middle/high school gymnasium.
Amy Keeler, the food service director for BASD, said the lunch will also include breakfast for the next day.
“Any child who is enrolled in our district has no-cost breakfast and lunch five days a week,” she said. “We want to make sure parents are aware of that.”
For those students in school, a grab-and-go breakfast will be available on a cart as soon as the students enter the building and can eat their breakfast in the classroom.
In-school students can be accommodated to eat lunch in the middle/high school’s large cafeteria where all the students will sit in one direction to not face each other and six feet apart.
Grab-and-go meals will also be served for lunch with all food either wrapped or cupped with a lid, and all utensils will be sealed.
Keeler said all employees will wear masks and face shields, and the students will be counted by staff instead of them either swiping their student cards or using a pin pad.
“We tried to think of every possible detail for safety,” Keeler said. “We’re confident everything will go well.”
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Troy Golden, the food service director with the Albert Gallatin School District, said meals will be available for pickup at five sites throughout the district for the first month of school, which will all be remote learning.
“If the remote learning is extended beyond the four weeks, we will continue with this process,” Golden said. “If the district would be able to move to a hybrid A/B schedule with students only attending classes in the building two days per week, we will have meals available for students in attendance and also have meals available for pick up at each building.”
Golden said, with both plans, the student or guardian will need to order in advance if they wish to do a curbside pick-up meal by completing an order form found on the district webpage or by calling the cafeteria office of the building they wish to pick up meals.
“They will need to provide the student name, grade, which building they attend and which building they wish to pick up at,” Golden said.
Golden said if they have a hybrid model A/B Schedule, the district will provide a grab-and-go breakfast for students to take to the classroom.
He said lunch will be served in the classroom for students grades K-2 and other grades will eat either in the cafeteria or designated areas with social distancing will be enforced and tables, and desks will be sanitized on a regular basis and after each serving period.
Golden added that all meals will be served as a complete meal in a closed-hinged container.
“The choices will be limited, but we will serve quality hot and cold meals,” he said. “Cafeteria staff will be following all state regulations and increasing the number of times surfaces are cleaned and sanitized.”
Dawn Basinger, the director of food service with the Connellsville Area School District, said students are participating in a hybrid-learning model where students inside the building will have a grab-and-go breakfast in the classroom and a hot lunch in the cafeteria daily.
“Remote learning students will have the opportunity to pre-order breakfast and lunch daily for curbside pickup,” Basinger said, adding that the orders can be made on the school’s website under “food services” and complete a lunch order form. “Families with multiple students in different buildings may pick up all pre-ordered student meals at the school closest to them.”
Connellsville is also a CEP school with all students receiving a free breakfast and lunch.
“We are here to take care of all our students nutritional needs when they are physically with us or at home,” Basinger said. “We encourage parents to take advantage of the food service our district is offering.”
Basinger added that the cafeteria staff is doing extra sanitizing, and all staff will wear gloves and masks for the utmost safety of the students and staff, which is excited to see the students of whom they missed.