HYRUM – Every weekday morning at 7 a.m. the Lincoln Elementary School lunch ladies start preparing lunches and breakfasts for students in their boundaries.
Susan Wallentine, the Cache County School District’s child nutrition coordinator, said they prepare an average of 24,000 meals a day for students from one year to 18 years-old in the district.
“We are preparing two meals a day for each student in all of our schools,” she said. “We have the grab and go lunches served at the school and then we send the rest out on buses.”
The bus driver takes two food service women to each bus stop where they distribute the meals to the students in plastic grocery store bags.
All of the food service staff, from preparation to delivery, wear a surgical-mask covering their mouth and nose and disposable rubber gloves.
As the busses pull up to the stops, there are children spread out, social distancing, with parents standing nearby as the bags are handed out.
Logan City School District also has a food program for the COVID-19 school dismissal.
Paul Guymon, Logan School District Child Nutrition/Purchasing Manager, said in their district they are only handing out lunches on Wednesday. The bags have a week’s worth of meals.
“We are practicing social distancing amongst our own food service staff,” he said. “That’s the reason we went to one day a week.”
This week the Logan School District served nearly 42,000 meals.
“All the school lunches are prepared at the schools they are served at,” Guymon said. Food service workers work Monday through Thursday preparing the food for the week.
The local school lunch programs are mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
The federally assisted meal program operates in public, non-profit private schools, and residential childcare institutions according to the USDA website.
Guymon said both the federal and state governments provide payment for low-cost or free lunches served to eligible children. The state Board of Education contribution comes from the State of Utah liquor tax funds, Guymon said.
School districts enter into agreements with the Utah State Board of Education Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) to participate. Consequently, the more meals served to eligible students, the better the reimbursement.
Reimbursement is paid to education institutions based on meals served to children at the established free, reduced, and paid rate depending on the eligibility of the student served.
NSLP sponsors receive entitlement dollars based on the number of meals served. These can then be used to order United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) foods as part of the Food Distribution Program (FDP).