The economic well-being of citizens during the pandemic has been an urgent and complex topic following a rapid increase in nationwide unemployment. One factor of controversy adjacent to this economic shift is whether or not schools should charge students for meals. In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided on August 31 to create a national program that enables all students to receive free meals. This program is set to last until the end of the calendar year.
Hamilton County began implementing this program on September 8. The Department of Agriculture is paying for meals, therefore, the program will not cost anything for the county.
Each student will be allowed to have one breakfast and one lunch for each school day. Virtual students can pick up meals at their respective schools on Wednesdays between nine and 10 a.m.; however, on-campus students are not permitted to take their meals home. Funds in students’ meal accounts can be used for a la carte items, which are still charged, or saved until later school years.
The decision was met with positive reception from almost all sources, with some district officials stressing the importance of students’ nutrition during a critical and unorthodox year.
“This will be beneficial to all parties,” cafeteria manager Jennifer McNabb answered on the matter. “Parents will get to save a little money, no student that wants a meal will have to do without, and it also helps the School Nutrition Program. It allows us to serve more meals across the county.”
Principal Phil Iannarone also commended the program. “I am glad that we can extend the opportunity to all students during this unprecedented time. Our goal is to assist our students in any way we can in order to promote their overall well-being.”
With concerns about food mostly covered, students and teachers can instead focus on education and immersion in the midst of a year that has deeply disrupted both values.