Kids to eat for free at schools this year
Every student at Wareham Public Schools can eat both breakfast and lunch at school for free again this year.
While all schools nationwide can serve free meals to all students this year thanks to covid relief funds, Wareham Public Schools have been eligible to serve free meals for several years. If at least 40 percent of students in a particular school or district qualify for free lunch, administrators can apply for federal funding to serve meals for free to all students.
As of April 2021, about 52 percent of Wareham students qualified for free lunches.
The district applied this spring, and has secured funds to serve free meals to all students during school hours for the next four years.
Russo said that, unfortunately, the covid funds that allowed the school district to provide food to any child in the area, regardless of their enrollment in schools, and on weekends, has expired. Now the schools can only serve meals to students in school on school days.
Mike Russo, the district’s food services director, said he hopes to feed as many students as possible.
“We want to maximize participation because we get reimbursed based not on how many meals we make, but how many meals are taken by the children,” Russo explained. Funds from the program cover the cost of food, and the cost of staff salaries, supplies, etc. Once the schools break even, Russo said additional funds will go to replacing old equipment and other maintenance needs.
This year, Russo said he is excited about being able to serve hot lunches to students once again. The cafeterias will be returning to a pre-covid model of service, allowing students to choose between a hot lunch option and other stand-bys, like the salad bar and sandwich line at the high school.
All the meals served by the schools meet USDA nutritional standards, but are designed to be as appealing to students as possible.
For example, breakfasts include milk, fruit, fruit juice and, often, a whole-grain baked good like a cinnamon roll or crumb-cake muffin.
“Chocolate chip muffins are huge with our student body,” Russo said. “The students really love them, and they don’t notice the fact that they’re whole grain. They’re very tasty.”