PAPILLION, Neb. (KMTV) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended the summer program that provides free lunches to all students.
If the school district participates, all students, regardless of income, can get a free breakfast and lunch through December 31 or until federal funding runs out. It does not include à la carte or second meals.
“We were able to provide a lot of families meals all summer long and now we’re able to do that during the school year. Now, all students will be eligible,” Annette Eyman, Director of Communications, Papillion La Vista Community Schools said.
Free meals begin in Papillion La Vista Monday.
“This has been a really challenging time for our families,” Eyman said. “There are lots of needs, people have lost their jobs, they’re not able to work as much. Being able to provide meals for all families so no one has to worry about that is a huge benefit for our school district. It’s a huge benefit for families.”
Twenty-four percent of families in the Papillion La Vista district qualified for free or reduced lunches.
“We are excited to be able to bring this benefit to all families, particularly families who maybe didn’t qualify for free and reduced but it was a struggle to pay for those lunches,” Eyman said. “Now it’s one less thing that families are going to have to worry about at least for a few months.”
Shannon Sintek, General Manager of Sodexo, said the program at Elkhorn Public Schools is effective immediately.
“The USDA sponsors this program and they know how important nutrition is to learning and want each child to have access to meals,” Sintek said. “We have plenty of food, students getting a meal will not be taking a meal from someone else. We will continue to provide students with the same healthy and nutritious meals as we always have.”
Millard Public Schools also said they’re participating in the USDA program. It was implemented this week, and refunds will be given to families who purchased lunches beginning on September 1.
Omaha Public Schools is participating. Meals at OPS are available for students through the Meals2Go Program; families can pick up meals each Monday and Wednesday at school sites throughout the district.
Even though it isn’t necessary to participate in the USDA’s free meal program right now, districts encourage parents to complete a free and reduced meal application to continue the benefit once federal funding runs out.