The Leon County School Board briefly discussed nutritional services during the budget meeting on July 22, 2021. The nutrition program for Leon County School’s is fully federally funded by reimbursements for meals served.
During the 2020-2021 school year, the fund balance decreased due to the pandemic since a number of students were at home with virtual school and did not eat lunch on campus. As a result of the decrease in funds, some staff members were relocated to other areas within the district. Also, some funds from the CARES Act were used to help fund the nutrition program.
The Board anticipates those funds to increase as the schools reopen and students return to campus in the fall. Additionally, a new Food Service Director, Christie Meresse, who was with the Florida Department of Agriculture, has been hired. She is revamping the menus in a effort to excite students about school lunch. Her approach may include meals made from scratch.
Also, LCS has received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for free lunches to be served to all of Leon County students.
As a continuation of the federal government’s plan for safely reopening schools, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ensured waivers to provide healthy meals free of charge to children for the up coming school year.
Schools nationwide will be allowed to serve meals through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option. Usually this is only available during the summer months, however it will continue through the 2021-2022 school year.
If schools choose this option, it will also increase the meal reimbursement rate for every meal they serve. This is an effort to support schools in serving nutritious meals while managing increased costs associated with pandemic-related operational and supply chain challenges.
This option also allows schools the “financial flexibility” to customize their meal service design to fit their needs, according to the announcement released by the USDA.
The decision to offer over 12 million school students free school lunch next year, means that schools will not have to transition back to traditional school lunch programs, which include free, subsidized, and paid meals, depending on the student’s household income levels.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated the “The USDA remains relentless in ensuring our nation’s children get the critical nutrition they need,” and that “the 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.”