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USDA extends summer lunch program through school year

Junior Celsey French gets her free lunch from food service worker Rachel Neis, the program has helped Celsey and her family not worry about lunch money during the pandemic. (Liam Halawith/The Union)
Junior Celsey French gets her free lunch from food service worker Rachel Neis, the program has helped Celsey and her family not worry about lunch money during the pandemic. (Liam Halawith/The Union)

MT. PLEASANT — The Mt. Pleasant Community School District, as well as other districts around the nation, is reaping the benefits of the USDA’s extension of the summer hot lunches program.

The program provides free lunches for all students, no matter their financial status, until June 30, 2021, or the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

According to a news release from the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the federal program aims to give children across America access to nutritional foods during a pandemic which might leave some families financially unstable.

The release states that the funding aims at helping districts focus on providing nutritional foods, instead of worrying about money.

Mt. Pleasant District Food Service Director Sheryl Wilson said that the program helps her department focus on helping students get good food instead of families having to worry about lunch accounts.

“It eases the burden of having to put money in the account or having to provide their child with a sack lunch. So financially it helps them a great deal,” Wilson said.

District Superintendent John Henriksen said the program removes the added financial burden during the coronavirus pandemic to help families who might be struggling.

“It’s just one more thing during this time of COVID with everything going on: people losing their jobs, households struggling. [Now] families don’t have to worry about it,” Henriksen said.

Junior Celsey French is one of the hundreds of students in the district who are receiving the benefit of the extension. French said that it helps her family stay on track and keep financially stable.

“It’s made my financial situation a little bit better because now we’re not worrying about having to pay for our school lunches every so often,” French said.

The program pays the full price of a reimbursable meal, or a balanced meal, which includes a main dish item, two fruits, a vegetable, and a carton of milk. The program allows the district to provide every student, no matter their socioeconomic status, a nutritional meal twice a day.

“It’s something that they don’t have to worry about because any student no matter their socio-economic status can come through and eat free for the school year,” Henriksen said.