Program allows IC Schools to help youth regardless of income, learning situation
IMLAY CITY — Whether a toddler just learning their ABC’s or a senior studying from home virtually, Imlay City Schools wants to feed them. Because of the pandemic, the district is able to provide free meals to all youth 18 and under regardless of their family’s income or schooling situation and they want more local residents to be aware of it.
Roxanne Pierce, Imlay City Schools Food Service Director, said the district is currently operating under the Summer Feeding Program that, as the name implies, they traditionally use during summer break to feed children on-site without having to prove need or residence. In August 2020, the USDA announced all students were eligible for free meals as part of the federal government’s COVID-19 response.
“The tricky part is that we are not an open campus this year so we ask families to place orders and then meals can be picked up from the high school on Thursdays between 4-5 p.m.” Pierce said.
The program serves students learning virtually or remotely, those under quarantine, homeschoolers and younger siblings of Imlay City Schools students. It’s expected to extend through the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.
Every week participants receive five days worth of breakfast and lunch including five main items plus milk, juice and fresh fruits and vegetables. Most breakfast items are ready to eat as is while some lunch main dishes require heating in a microwave or oven.
“We try to vary the menu every three weeks,” Pierce said.
Fortunately food service providers have begun to offer more pre-packaged items that are ideal for this type of arrangement like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, rotini and more, she noted.
Last week’s meal offerings included mini pancakes, whole grain cinnamon roll, strawberry cream cheese filled mini bagel, bacon and egg breakfast pizza boat, and a cinnamon flavored oatmeal breakfast round for breakfast; along with two juices, a whole banana, fresh grapes, fresh apple slices and five milks. For lunch students received hamburger on a bun, grilled cheese sandwich, macaroni and cheese pouch, pizza calzone, and chicken nuggets with French fries; along with three fruit juices, fresh broccoli, fresh baby carrots, fresh orange, fresh apple, fresh pear, diced peach cup, watermelon flavored applesauce, and five milks.
Being able to deliver some normalcy to families during this trying time has been rewarding, Pierce said.
“One parent said their kids are so happy to see those familiar cartons of school milk every week,” she said with a laugh.
She believes the free meal program has also better helped parents understand the quality of food available at school.
“They’re able to see firsthand what we’re feeding their kids and I think it shows we’re feeding them pretty good stuff,” Pierce said.
Although there’s no cost for school meals presently, Pierce said it’s still important for families to complete a free and reduced meal application for the current school year.
“The household free and reduced determination can benefit families beyond just school meals. It may assist to qualify them for any future Pandemic EBT benefits similar to what was offered this past fall. Depending on the results of the household application, students may qualify to be exempt from pay to play for Imlay City School sports, waivers for certain college exams, and 30 day grace period of their qualifying status to complete an application at the beginning of next school year,” she noted.
Meal orders are due every Monday by noon. Parents and guardians are asked to call 810-724-9855 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and provide a name, contact number and total number of children needing meals who are not currently attending school.