By Nick Blank [email protected]
CLAY COUNTY – In preparation for the 2022-2023 school year, the Clay County School District’s Department of Food and Nutrition Services is urging parents to request a free and reduced lunch again, as the federal COVID-19 waiver 19 two-year free school meals ended.
At more than 40 schools, the district serves 8,000 to 9,000 breakfasts a day and about 25,000 lunches a day on average.
Director of Food and Nutrition Services Susie Glover said a new request for free and reduced meals is required each school year. Reduced lunch is $0.30 for breakfast and $0.40 for lunch.
Glover said it’s important to file an application so children still receive benefits. Normally, if an application is on file from a previous year, students would get a 30-day exemption, but the COVID-19 waiver for the past two years has given students free food regardless of their circumstances.
“The waivers allowed us to feed anyone for free,” Glover said.
Glover said the department is proud to keep lunch, $2.25 for elementary students and $2.50 for high school students, and a la carte items the same price as the previous school year. Breakfast will remain at $1.50.
Glover said the community experiences inflation and rising costs for items like gas. The relationship between hunger and poor test scores, students repeating a grade, and discipline problems are well documented, according to the nonprofit organization No Kid Hungry.
“Free and reduced meals are very important and go to students who otherwise wouldn’t have them,” Glover said.
The district has 13 schools participating in the Community Eligibility Provision, where students can receive a free lunch without request. The schools are listed on the Department of Food and Nutrition Services Facebook page which is @oneclayfoodservices.
Six schools also participate in the Universal Free Breakfast program, which requires application, including Wilkinson Junior High, Keystone Heights Junior-Senior High, Orange Park High and Coppergate Elementary Schools, Doctors Inlet and Lakeside.
Additionally, the department continues its food development, food truck service, and hosting student focus groups to improve overall. Some summer meal program sites have recently ended, although a few sites will remain open until July 28 and Friday July 29.
“Their feedback is very important to us,” Glover said.
Staffing is a critical topic in all of education. Food and Nutrition Services has over 25 cafeteria positions to fill.
“Absolutely, we’re looking to hire,” Glover said. “It’s a concern, but we still manage to get the job done.”
Challenges aside, Glover said, the department is eager to begin the 2022-33 school year.
“We are ready to go. We are excited about the new year, communication is going to be key,” Glover said. “We want to make sure we are reaching out to parents and the community.
School starts on August 10. More information is available at oneclay.net/foodandnutrition.