Most school districts in Kitsap and North Mason counties will keep handing out free breakfast and lunch kits to students this fall following an announcement last week that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will extend a waiver that provides for no-cost meals to children 18 and under regardless of family income.
In ordinary times, school meals are offered at reduced prices or free to families who qualify based on income. The USDA’s free meal waiver was initiated this spring after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools and districts turned to distributing “grab-and-go” meals at school sites or on bus routes.
All kids 0-18 were eligible even if they weren’t enrolled as students. So siblings got fed as well. That policy will continue under the waiver extension.
The free meal program was immensely popular. South Kitsap School District, for example, distributed 256,294 meals during the spring closure. Central Kitsap served 204,432 meals. Both are large districts with more than 9,000 students.
Bremerton School District, with just under 5,000 students, distributed 208,208 meals, and North Mason, with about 2,400 students, handed out more than 100,000. On the first day of school, Bremerton distributed 900 free meals.
The renewed meal waiver will continue through the end of December 2020 (or until funds run out).
“With these waivers, schools can continue providing healthy, nutritious meals at no cost to all students who need them,” state schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal said in a news release on Aug. 31. “Schools can continue using the processes they developed last spring, which resulted in more than 28 million meals being served to students who were learning at a distance.”
Meal delivery this spring took the form of meals-on-wheels in some districts, like North Mason and Bremerton, which handed out meals along bus routes this spring as well as at school sites.
Reykdal said the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction would lobby Congress to continue funding the free meal waiver through the entire 2020-21 school year.
Districts’ meal plans
Bremerton School District: Meals are distributed 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday at all Bremerton schools and Monday through Friday on all elementary bus routes (check bremertonschools.org for the route nearest you and approximate delivery times).
Central Kitsap School District: Monday through Friday distribution of sack breakfasts and hot lunches is available at select schools throughout the district and the operations service center, 9104 Dickey Road NW. Pick-up hours are 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at most locations, except the Naval Base Kitsap gate near Clear Creek Elementary, which is from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. For planning purposes, families are asked to complete a Meals Access Survey. If your child needs meals but you can’t make the pick-up, contact nutrition services.
North Kitsap School District: Meals will be available for pick-up on regular school days, Monday through Friday, but not on holidays or non-student days (any day that school is not in session). Family members may pick up meals without children present, but they’ll be asked to sign to affirm the name and age of the child receiving the meal.
Meal pick-up is available as follows: 10 a.m.-11:15 a.m., Kingston Middle School; 10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m., Hilder Pearson Elementary School; 10 a.m.-11:15 a.m., Poulsbo Middle School; 10 a.m.-11:15 a.m. Suquamish Elementary; 10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m Vinland Elementary.
North Mason School District: Meal deliveries will be between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays via bus on eight different routes (see nmsd.wednet.edu for details on routes and estimated delivery times).
There is also the option for parents, caregivers, guardians and students to pick up meals drive-thru style between 11 a.m. and noon Tuesdays and Thursdays behind North Mason High School, behind Belfair Elementary and in front of Sandhill Elementary. Students do not need to be present to receive meals.
For accommodation of allergies and other special diets, contact Michelle Waller at 360-277-2121 or email@example.com.
South Kitsap School District: Weekly curbside meal pick-up will be on Wednesdays starting Sept. 9 (SKSD’s first day of school) from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at each of the district’s 10 elementary schools. Families can choose any pick-up location and don’t need to go to the school their child attends. Meals will also be available for pickup from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the food and nutrition services facility, 1695 Madrona DR SE.
Students need not be present when parents pick up meals, but families are asked to complete a pre-order form for each child for planning purposes. Meals will be packaged breakfast and lunch for five days, intended to cover nutrition needs on school days. Special diets are accommodated with a doctor’s signature. Find more information and forms online at sksdfoodandnutrition.com. For assistance, call 360-443-3663.
Bainbridge Island School District: The district did not respond by the Kitsap Sun’s press time for information on whether it would be participating in the extended waiver program.
The district offers free- and reduced-cost meals to qualifying families. All K-3 students in BISD who qualify for reduced-cost meals receive free meals. Students in grades 4-12 who qualify for reduced-cost meals pay 40 cents per day.
BISD will provide weekly “meal kits” of five breakfasts and five lunches, available for pickup from 10 a.m. to noon Fridays at Sakai Intermediate School. Regular, gluten-free and vegetarian meal kits may be ordered on a weekly basis.
Daily meal kit costs are as follows: K-4, $5.65; 5-7, $5.75; 7-8 $6; 9-12 $6.50; non-BISD student or adult, $7.50. With questions, contact NutritionServices@bisd.org.
More help needed?
Students who qualify for free or reduced-cost meals can also get Pandemic EBT, a temporary program to help families buy groceries while schools are closed because of COVID-19. The maximum one-time benefit is $399 per child issued on an EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card.
The benefit is available to all K-12 students regardless of immigration status, and the application doesn’t ask about citizenship.
The deadline to apply for the one-time Pandemic EBT benefit recently was extended to Sept. 11. Call 877–501–2233 or go online at www.WashingtonConnection.org. Se habla Español.
If your child 18 and under is not eligible for Pandemic EBT but you still need help finding free meals, text “Food” to 877-877.
Chris Henry reports on education and community news for the Kitsap Sun. Reach her at (360) 792-9219 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support coverage of local news by signing up today for a digital subscription.