Free school meals for all again this fall; districts working on summer plan now

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While local school districts are busy planning the free summer meal programs that kick off later this month, there’s some good news for families already wondering about the meal situation this fall.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be free for all students once again through the 2021-22 school year.

“We are thrilled to be able to extend our free meals through next school year and help provide all of our students with delicious, from-scratch healthy meals free of charge,” said Garra Schluter Bend-La Pine Schools’ Nutrition Services Supervisor

Earlier this spring the USDA extended its free meal program through June 2022, giving parents and kids one less thing to worry about heading into the new school year.

“USDA will remain relentless in ensuring our nation’s children get the critical nutrition they need,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement announcing the program. “States and districts wanted waivers extended to plan for safe reopening in the fall. USDA answered the call to help America’s schools and childcare institutions serve high-quality meals while being responsive to their local needs as children safely return to their regular routines.”

According to the agency, schools that choose to get the USDA waiver for free meals will receive higher-than-normal meal reimbursements for every meal they serve.

Vilsack called it a “win-win for kids, parents and schools.”

The decision was part of the Biden-Harris plan to ensure all students return full-time to the classroom in Fall 2021.

“It’s critical that our efforts to reopen schools quickly and safely include programs that provide access to free, healthy meals for our most vulnerable students, particularly those whose communities have been hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Education Secretary Migual Cardona. “This program will ensure more students, regardless of their educational setting, can access free, healthy meals as more schools reopen their doors for in-person learning.”

Free meals have been a summer staple for local school children for years and the program extended into the school year during COVID.

In November, the USDA extended the program through the current school year.

Redmond and Bend-La Pine Schools officials said they planned to release more information on the free summer meal program soon.

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