Children in Lynchburg, and Bedford, Amherst and Campbell counties now are able to receive free meals through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program.
Area school divisions announced last week they would be using the USDA Summer Food Service Program through the end of the calendar year, or until funds are depleted. The program allows them to provide free meals to all children in their localities, regardless of enrollment.
Beth Morris, director of school nutrition for Lynchburg City Schools, said the division’s school nutrition program and transportation staff have been distributing meal kits to students in the division since school began remotely Aug. 24. Before this past Tuesday, the division was distributing meal kits with breakfast, lunch, snack and supper through the USDA National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The snack and supper are offered through the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program, Morris said.
“Under [the National School Lunch Program] and [the School Breakfast Program], we can only serve meals to LCS-enrolled students,” Morris said in an email. “Under [the summer food service program], we can provide breakfast and lunch to all children ages 18 and younger.”
According to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, 32% of its clients are children younger than the age of 18. One in 10 children in the food bank’s service area faces food insecurity. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank serves food-insecure people in 25 counties and eight cities in central and western Virginia.
Monthly, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank serves 21,890 people in the Lynchburg area, which includes the city and Bedford, Campbell, Amherst, Appomattox and Nelson counties. On average, the food bank serves 5,720 children in the Lynchburg area every month.
For the first week of school, LCS distributed an average of more than 1,260 kits daily. The division serves around 8,000 students.
On Sept. 8, when the division began distributing meals to all children in the city, not just those enrolled in LCS, they distributed 1,370 meal kits. By Sept. 10, that number rose to nearly 1,700.
Meal kits are distributed daily at the division’s five secondary schools — E.C. Glass and Heritage high schools, and Dunbar, Linkhorne and Sandusky middle schools — from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Students and parents can also pick up meals at various bus delivery locations around the city from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Distribution does not occur on holidays.
Bedford, Amherst and Campbell schools are also using the Summer Food Service Program to provide free breakfasts and lunches to all children in their localities. Campbell County Public Schools began distributing free meals when its first students returned to school buildings Sept. 1.
Tim Hoden, director of operations for the division, said the division does not yet have a record of how many meals have been distributed to children in the county. Breakfast and lunch are available for pickup at Altavista, Brookneal, Concord, Leesville Road, Rustburg, Tomahawk and Yellow Branch elementary schools; Brookville and Rustburg middle schools; Altavista and William Campbell combined schools; Brookville and Rustburg high schools and the Campbell County Technical Center.
Students attending school in person this year will receive meals daily. Students receiving hybrid instruction will receive their meals for their virtual instruction day(s) before dismissal on their in- person school day(s), Hoden said. Meals are distributed daily for virtual students and other children in the county under the age of 18.
Since Bedford County Public Schools students just began the school year this week, Karen Arthur, supervisor of school nutrition for the division, said schools have not yet reported meal distribution numbers.
“We have not asked our schools to send in any kind of numbers as of yet,” Arthur said in an email.
Bedford students who are attending school in person and those who have chosen the division’s 100% remote learning option — Bedford Connects — are able to receive free breakfast and lunch. Curbside pickup is available at each school, the division said, and pick up times and locations can be found on the division’s website.
The division asked for families to be patient during the first few weeks of the school year as they adjust and evaluate how many families will be in need of meals.
Amherst County students attending school in person will receive breakfast and lunch in the classroom, the division said. Students will receive meals to take home for their remote learning days. Students participating in the division’s 100% remote learning option and children not enrolled in the division are able to pick up meals from elementary school curbside sites from 10 to 11 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays and at secondary school sites from 11 a.m. to noon Mondays through Thursdays.
The USDA has not guaranteed any extension of the Summer Food Service Program after Dec. 31.
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