MUSCATINE, Iowa–Across the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has created food insecurity and school lunch programs have done much to ameliorate it. Locally, Muscatine Community School District provided free lunches to all students who needed them from mid March until the end of the summer using funding from the United States Department of Agriculture. Now, the USDA has extended the program through Dec. 31 or until money runs out. As a result, Muscatine Community School District will provide free meals to all children who request them.
Alisha Eggers Muscatine Community School District’s Food and Nutrition Supervisor, emphasized that all children in the district under 18, whether too young to go to school, in person learners, hybrid learners, or virtual learners could qualify for the free meals. In order for a family to participate, they must fill out a survey on the Muscatine Community School District Website marked “FREE Meals for ALL for Muscatine Children 18 & Under” for each child that will participate. The survey allows parents to select which days they will need lunches at home for their kids (which can include weekends) and what day they would like to pick them up. Food service staff will have all of the family’s lunches for the week ready to pick up at one time. The free meals do not have any income requirement tied to them.
Currently, Muscatine Community School District prepares all of their grab and go meals in the Central Middle School kitchen and distributes them Wednesday and Friday from 11 a. m. to 2 p. m. and Thursday from 5 to 7 p. m. If parents need to change their pick up day, they may alter their survey until 10 a. m. the day before they plan to pick up. Students in school full time or as hybrid learners will get free meals during lunch time the days they attend school. Regardless of when parents schedule their pickup, they will receive the meals through a low contact system where food service staff delivers it to their cars.
So far, the free lunch program has proved tremendously successful. For its first pickup day, Sept. 16, 213 children received lunches. Eggers reported that 400 families had registered for the Sept. 17 pickup and with 900 surveys received to date, she believes even more families will take advantage of this opportunity. “I expect it to grow,” she explained.
For Eggers, getting to help so many kids get good lunches during a difficult time means a lot: “I was a free kid my whole life. It’s really very special to me to give back. I think our community really needs it, especially at this time in our lives.” Eggers added that her staff also appreciates the opportunity to support students.