All students currently eat for free


Photo by Austin Buck

Juniors at Stillwater Area High School, Amelia Bretl, Nick Koehn and Connor Quaderer take advantage of the free lunches provided due to COVID-19. Each student can receive one entree but must take one serving of fruits or vegetables.

Austin Buck, Broadcast Editor

Due to many families across the country being in financial hardship right now, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) extended a nation-wide waiver allowing all children ages 0 to 18 to receive free breakfasts and lunches during the school week, regardless of family income. 

Any student in the community ages 0-18 can receive free breakfasts and lunches provided by the school, regardless of family income. There are no qualifications for these free meals which is what makes it different from any other situation we have experienced. The pandemic has caused an increased and widespread need for help by many families, and this is something that can give struggling families one less thing to worry about.

The Kitchen Manager at Stillwater Area High School, Amy Richardson, explained that everyone eighteen or younger can receive these meals even if they are not enrolled in our schools, because it is a service given to the community during this time.

Many different options are available at school including sit down hot lunch, or many options from the market. For breakfast there is a cart in the rotunda and near the bus doors along with the main cafeteria being open as well. If a student were to stay at school for office hours, all options are available. If one were to choose to opt-out of school at 12:20 P.M., all options except a sit down hot lunch are available. 

Richardson also explained how all the foods that were available last year are still available including hot lunch, the market which has pizza, hot and cold sandwiches and salads.

Deb Linquist said “it is the same food we have always used, but you might see things with a little more packaging.”

Free meals will most likely not continue after Dec. 31 at the latest. The waiver was only extended until Dec. 31 but could very well end sooner if funds run out. Once it expires the normal school lunch program will take over which does offer free and reduced meals, but the qualifications are quite slim and will not serve free meals to nearly as many kids as are being offered them currently.

It is tricky trying to follow the rules and regulations with healthier foods and still have the kids eat it.

— Amy Richardson

“Due to this pandemic, I think we’re gonna see a lot of families really hurting from that so we’re still pushing and hoping that the waiver will be extended for the entire school year,” Linquist said.

Students who are learning from home or who do not attend a school which offers free meals can still get their food. Anyone in the community can drive to one of the locations and pick up their food for the week, with no identification necessary. This includes five breakfasts and five lunches, but food will not be served for weekends or holidays. This option is offered to make these meals easier to access for everyone, especially those who need it most.

“It is just pick up on Fridays either at SAHS or at Brookview Elementary from 11am to 12:30pm,” Linquist said. 

The program dished out more meals each week than the previous one during Distance Learning last spring. These meals are helping significantly more families than would have been helped without this waiver extension. Although not all meals are taken by families in need, many people are still struggling in our community right now. 

The need from the families in the community grew and grew Linquist said. She explained how the district served “about 1,350 breakfasts and 1,350 lunches” during their most popular weeks.

Dorian Swanson, a junior at SAHS also explained how it’s helping kids like himself who take advantage of this offer. He says it is convenient to eat breakfast at school because it can be quicker than making it at home and it allows him to get more sleep.

The school is also taking many steps to make the food healthier for students, while also balancing student acceptance to minimize waste. Many dishes have been switched to whole grains, are low in sodium and fat, and all dishes are free of trans fat. This can make the meals more appealing to students and their families, and overall help students learn better.

They are already lower sodium, lower fat and with no trans fats in anything that we serve,” Linquist said. She also mentioned, “It is tricky trying to follow the rules and regulations with healthier foods and still have the kids eat it.” 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic with many families struggling financially, a waiver has been extended by the USDA granting everyone in the country ages 18 and below free breakfasts and lunches for each school day, regardless of family income (situation may vary depending on local decisions). At the high school, every option for breakfast and lunch that was available last year is available this year, but for free. This includes sit down hot lunch and grab and go options like warm sandwiches or cold salads or breakfast bars in the morning. The waiver is set to expire around Dec. 31, but staff and students are hopeful that it continues for the rest of the school year.