USDA program lifts burden of school meals for Columbia County

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 5:46 PM EDT
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EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - It was the first-day parents in Columbia County could get free school meals for their kids while they learn from home. While it’s a huge help financially for families, it’s also a help for the schools.

It’s no doubt parents take on many roles, from a constant driver to teacher, to a nurse. But for parents in Columbia County, the role of the chef just got a little easier.

“Are you excited about getting lunch today? Yes! Are you excited to see your teacher? Very excited!”

Lunch in Columbia County was as easy as pulling up to the curb.

“Every one of them are prepackaged with instructions, and they asked me if I would like milk, and they said ‘We’ll see you Friday,’ and it was that easy of a process,” Columbia County mom said Mary Cooley said.

Learn from home students can now receive a free lunch and breakfast to-go, courtesy of a U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“And the students said, you know, these are tough times for them,” Penny Jackson, Associate Superintendent of Columbia County schools, said. “And you might not necessarily qualify for free and reduced, however, their families, because of COVID, have reduced hours in their family and their income was reduced.”

According to Feeding America data given to us by the Golden Harvest Food Bank-- prior to the pandemic, 1 in 8 kids in Columbia County faced food insecurity. Now, they estimate that has jumped to 1 in 5 kids.

“I think all of us are on restricted budgets, and why not utilize the funding that’s been given to us?” Cooley said.

Columbia County schools say about $27,000 were racked up last year in unpaid lunch debt.

So, the program has the ability to really take a load off, making getting fed one less thing to worry about.

“They’re going to fight over what flavor Pop Tart they get, on that day a week, so [laughs], oh, well,” Cooley said.

Learn from home students can pick up the lunch on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The district says registering online makes it easier for them to prepare.

For hybrid A/B model students, they can pick up meals for their off days at dismissal time.

For parents, if you want to sign up your kid for these meals-- there’s still time. The Columbia County school district has a Google Form for parents to fill out.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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