The Leon County School Board briefly discussed nutrition services during the July 22, 2021 budget meeting. The Leon County School Nutrition Program is fully funded by the federal government through reimbursement for meals served.
During the 2020-2021 school year, the fund balance decreased due to the pandemic as a number of students were at home with virtual school and did not have lunch on campus. Due to dwindling funds, some staff members have been transferred to other areas of the district. Additionally, some CARES Act funds were used to help fund the nutrition program.
The Council expects these funds to increase as schools reopen and students return to campus in the fall. Also, a new director of food services, Christie Meresse, who worked for the Florida Department of Agriculture, was hired. She rearranges the menus in an effort to get the students excited about the school lunch. Her approach may include home-cooked meals.
Additionally, LCS received a waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture to provide free lunches to all students in Leon County.
As an extension of the federal government’s plan to reopen schools safely, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has guaranteed waivers to provide free healthy meals to children for the upcoming school year.
Schools nationwide will be permitted to serve meals through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option. Usually this is only available during the summer months, but it will continue throughout the 2021-2022 school year.
If schools choose this option, it will also increase the meal reimbursement rate for each meal served. This is an effort to help schools serve nutritious meals while managing increased costs associated with pandemic-related operational and supply chain challenges.
This option also provides schools with the “financial flexibility” to customize their meal service design to suit their needs, according to the announcement released by the USDA.
The decision to provide more than 12 million students with free school meals next year means that schools will not have to revert to traditional school meal programs, which include free, subsidized and paid meals, depending the student’s household income levels.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the ‘USDA remains relentless in ensuring our nation’s children receive the essential nutrition they need’ and that ‘states and districts wanted waivers expanded. to plan for a safe reopening in the fall. The USDA has answered the call to help US schools and daycares serve high-quality meals while meeting their local needs as children safely return to their usual routines.