MUSCATINE, Iowa–Following the announcement of a new US Department of Agriculture waiver, Muscatine Community School District, and schools across the nation, will offer free meals to all students during the 2021-2022 school year. Students of all ages may participate in this program, which will officially begin the first day of school.
Unlike traditional free and reduced lunch programs for students in need, all students may participate regardless of whether their parents have completed an application. Students at every grade level may get both a free breakfast and lunch each day. Elementary students will use a meal card to register their selections each day while junior high school and high school students will simply use their student ID cards. All students will go through the same lunch line and thus have the same food choices. If students would like to purchase additional food or drinks or if students who bring their own lunch would like to purchase drinks, they may do so for a small fee.
Though families no longer need to complete free and reduced lunch applications to get their students meals, Food and Nutrition Supervisor Alisha Eggers encourages them to do so anyway, as it may reap the other benefits. Specifically, families who would usually qualify for free or reduced priced meals can also get additional items or services, such as bussing, driver’s education classes, Muscatine Aquatic Center passes, musical instrument rental, P-EBT benefits, and school materials for free or at a discount.
After many families took advantage of free lunches and free summer lunch pick up, Eggers feels delighted to continue and expand the reach of Muscatine Community School District’s free meal program. “The department team members are very proud to serve meals, especially for free,” Eggers said.
Moving forward, she would like the USDA to continue to offer free meal waivers to schools, and that this in turn will help students who face food insecurity get the food they need without any embarrassment. “I do hope that offering free meals at school will continue for years to come; students need the fuel for learning and do not need to worry about the stigma of other’s knowing their meal status,” she stated: “I was a free kid during my whole school career; although I did not mind, I do know that some students do.” She also believes that this new program will give parents one fewer expense to worry about, granting them extra peace of mind.