Fairfax County Public Schools children will continue to get free meals amid uncertainty with the pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended schools’ abilities to provide the food — traditionally for low-income families through free and reduced meal programs — by giving them special exemptions last year when schools were shut down due to COVID-19.
For FCPS, it means all students, regardless of their families’ incomes, can get free breakfast and lunch through June 2022.
“Pivot was the key word of success to the FCPS response to the pandemic and meals,” FCPS Food and Nutrition Services Director Maria Perrone said in a statement. “On March 13, 2020 — the day that schools closed — our FNS team opened 5 meal distribution sites” and continue to open more.
She says that by the close of this past school year, FCPS had 75 locations and over 400 bus stops distributing meals to students.
“By March of 2021 — one year after the start of the pandemic — the FNS team had served over 15 million meals,” Perrone noted.
The extension is funded by federal relief money from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that Congress first passed in March 2020 and extended in September, according to the USDA. The USDA has provided waivers to school districts to allow them to operate programs outside their normal parameters.
Buses with food drove through neighborhoods across Fairfax County yesterday (Wednesday) as part of a meal kit distribution effort, where children 18 and younger can get a week’s worth of food for free. FCPS will also provide meal kits at several schools through Aug. 16 as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program.
A mother who teaches in FCPS picked up food for her kids and remarked how she wished more people would have been there.
FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said the continued outreach comes as officials recognize the uncertainty that the pandemic has created for families.
After remote learning filled much of 2020, FCPS gradually shifted students back into classrooms throughout the school year, finally moving to four days a week in April. The district will return to five days a week for almost all students when it starts the school year on Aug. 23.
FCPS announced on July 28 that masks will be required in school buildings when students are present, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.
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