Free Lunches Make Lunch the Deal of the Day
This year, free lunches are available again for those who want it! Same as the last year, free lunches are being given out to students to ensure that everyone eats.
Cafeteria Manager, Rebecca Davies, explained that “lunches are government funded.” As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, school lunches had to be reevaluated, and one of the results of the reevaluation was free lunches.
“The average lunch count at Alta is 793. All meals served to students are free of charge,” continues Davies. “Because of Covid-19, the well-being of many families in our nation are being affected. To provide some relief, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created waivers which allowed students to receive meals free of charge since March 2020.
All Utah students will continue to have access to free meals through extended COVID-19 waivers issued by USDA. School meals provide good nutrition for students including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and limited fats and sodium.
School meals make it possible for all students to receive at least one well-balanced meal each school day. Equal access to nutritious school meals at no charge supports academics and fosters healthy eating habits while removing any stigma associated with eating in the cafeteria. The waiver for schools meals at no charge is in place for school year 2021-22.
Currently, there is not an extension of the waiver. Free meals should be ending at the end of School year 2021-22.” Free lunches would provide food for students who have faced economic hardships in that year. To avoid pin pointing those students, the idea was to make all lunches free.
“The cost of lunches went up by three times the amount,” Davies adds. She explains that “The National School Lunch Program and the National Breakfast program are funded by the USDA. They provide reimbursement to school districts for meals served to students. The district does not fund school meals. At a district level, we do not have access to USDA’s budget to see how much it costs to funds free school meals nationwide.”
There is a catch to this free food offered by the school. The only requirement is that you need to have three of the five food groups in your meal. Students can’t just get away with a pile of tater tots; they must make sure that three of the five food groups; fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and/or dairy; are present.
But this creates a whole other problem: wasting the nutritious food. According to Davies, thousands of dollars in the district gets wasted by requiring students to pick health foods but the bad part about this is that they throw out the nutritious foods and only eat the chips. “I am shocked about how much fruit goes to waste everyday,” Davies said.
As for the students, they are enjoying getting lunch for free. “I’m excited that the lunches are free again this year,” says one student. “It takes away the stress of going into my account and refilling it with money periodically just to eat at school. And I think that this is beneficial for everyone. It doesn’t make it so you have to specify that you qualify for free lunch. Instead, everyone is eligible so there is no worry to wait in the line dreading to have to share that information.”
Lunches are free again this year just like the year before. If you are interested in a free school lunch you can also call (801) 828-5443 for more information.