by Ben Adlin
In locations in southern Seattle and much of the rest of the state this summer, schools and community groups will be offering free lunches to young people, regardless of their ability to pay. Some sites will offer lunches every day of the week, while others will have seven-day packed lunches available for pickup on a weekly basis.
Lunches will be available to anyone 18 years of age and under, whether or not they are enrolled in this school. Parents and guardians can also collect meals on behalf of their children.
The service is part of an expanded federal program that typically provides lunches only in areas where more than half of students qualify for free or discounted meals. During the pandemic, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) opened up eligibility to all regions.
âThe USDA has stated that anyone can operate a summer site. You don’t have to qualify with that 50% or more of children in need, âsaid Leanne Eko, director of infant nutrition services at the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), which oversees the program in the. ‘State.
Most meal distribution sites are run by schools, “but we also have private non-profit organizations, Indian tribes, city and county governments, college and university programs, and some camps,” he said. declared Eko.
In South Seattle, the expansion means even more meal distribution sites will be operating this summer than those opened during the school year.
âWe’re actually opening more sites in South Seattle than we currently have,â said Adam Smith, director of nutrition services at Seattle Public Schools. Not only will more schools in the district offer meal withdrawals, but through a partnership with the city of Seattle, the YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, libraries and some daycares will also do so. âAnd we are currently in discussions with some of the local churches in South Seattle to distribute meals there. “
Smith directed Seattle-area families to the District’s Summer Meal Service website for more information, including school pickup locations. There’s even a sample menu, though the district says the selection sometimes varies.
Most Seattle schools will be open for lunch pickup from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Typically, the neighborhood offers four selections that change daily: a sandwich, a salad, a take-out option, and, at about two dozen locations, hot prepared foods such as pizza or burritos. Milk is provided with every meal, and in some locations the district will also provide boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Because of social distancing guidelines, young people and families must eat meals off-site.
Some dietary restrictions can be accepted, but not all. âWe always try to have a vegetarian option every day,â Smith said. âWe try to accommodate things like halal, but it is sometimes very difficult with our suppliers.
Families of young people with specific medical or dietary needs should go to a nearby site and notify supervisors, he added. Often, special meals can be prepared to meet these needs, but they must be prepared in advance in a central kitchen. If access to a site is a barrier, a family can arrange to pick up seven-day meal kits once a week.
âEach site is structured a little differently depending on the needs of that community,â Smith said.
Seattle Public Schools currently distribute food to 41 sites, serving about 20,000 students per day, according to Smith. As the summer meal program kicks off Monday, June 21, the number of venues is expected to increase to 86.
Other school districts are launching their meal programs later this summer.
The Highline School District will launch its summer service starting the week of June 28, with seven-day meal kits available in rotating locations on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The district is asking families to pre-order meals online to ensure there is enough food to meet demand.
The Auburn School District begins its summer foodservice program on June 30 and will be offering breakfasts and lunches on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at most participating schools. Meals will also be served at community centers and pickup truck stops in the area.
The Renton School District Summer Meal Service will be offering seven-day lunch kits for pickup on Wednesdays from schools and select apartment complexes in the district from select locations on June 30. Order forms are available online.
The Tukwila School District and most of the other districts around Puget Sound will also be offering summer meals.
A national map of dining locations is available in English and Spanish on the USDA website, although OSPI’s Eko said the information is always updated to reflect local details of the meal program. summer. Participating groups were required to submit this information to the state agency earlier this month.
Eko said families can text “FOOD” to 877-877 for more information. The sites can also be found through the USDA by texting “Summer Meals” to 97779 or by calling 1-866-3-HUNGRY (or 1-877-8-HAMBRE for service in Spanish).
While individual sites can set their own hours, most offer meals from late June to late August. A variety of other school nutrition programs operate throughout the year.
âThe reality is that food insecure families depend on school meals during the school year,â Eko said. âSo during the summer months when these meals aren’t available, it’s definitely a hardship and a change for them. “
As a registered dietitian, she said she sees good nutrition as a key component to supporting healthy development and better academic performance: needs are taken care of, and that includes making sure they aren’t. are not hungry.
She is also delighted that all communities are eligible for the summer meal program this year, noting that many students in the wealthier schools face food insecurity, even though these areas are generally not eligible for the. federal aid.
The change has helped fuel calls for more permanent change and to provide free meals to all students throughout the school year, Eko said. âThere is an incredible amount of paperwork that goes into determining what category a child belongs to during the school year. So if we were just feeding everyone, we would have administrative cost savings that could offset the added cost of feeding more children.
Ben adlin is a journalist and editor who grew up in the Pacific Northwest and currently lives on Capitol Hill. He has covered the politics and legal affairs of Seattle and Los Angeles over the past decade and has been a emerald contributor since May 2020, writing on community and municipal news. Find him on Twitter at @badlin.
ð¸ Featured image: USDA Photo by Lance Cheung via Wikimedia Commons. The image is in the public domain.
Before you move on to the next story â¦ Please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our regionâs most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. Support the Emerald!