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New USDA Funding for Bulloch Schools Means All Students Eat for Free

This unprecedented move was announced by the USDA on August 31 and will provide the school district the necessary funds and flexibility to supply children with food for free as our community continues to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All students enrolled in Bulloch County Schools can now eat for free for a limited time.  The free meal service is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture’s School Food and Nutrition Service.  This unprecedented move was announced by USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on August 31, and will provide the school district the necessary funds and flexibility to supply children with nutritious food for free as our community continues to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The school district temporarily stopped accepting meal payments on September 7. For any students who charged or paid to eat meals on September 1 – 4, the cost of these meals will be credited or reimbursed back to the students’ school meal accounts. Eligible families are still encouraged to complete a free and reduced-price meal application by September 29, to ensure assistance with school meals when this temporary waiver ends, which could be December 18 or earlier.


Eligible families still encouraged to complete a free and reduced-price meal application

To ensure an eligible child qualifies for either free or reduced-price meals when this temporary waiver could end at any time or when students return to school for the second semester on January 6, 2021, please complete a form by Sep. 29. December 18 is the last day of the first semester and the beginning of the school district’s two-week break for the winter holiday season. If your child was a student in the school district last year, and he or she qualified for either free or reduced-priced meals last year, your family’s application will only be valid through September 29,2020.  A new, approved application must be on file to receive free or reduced-price meals once the temporary USDA waiver ends. Bulloch County Schools provided printed applications to students at the beginning of the school year, or you can complete the application online.

Virtual Learning families still need to pre-order and pick up meals weekly

Bulloch County Schools’ School Nutrition Department will provide meal service to all families whose children are enrolled in the district’s Virtual Learning or Distance Learning programs. These families must still follow the established weekly pre-order and pickup routines. Complete information about this service is available on all district and school websites.

USDA waivers during COVID-19 have served families

Since March, the USDA has put multiple waivers in place to extend both its Summer Food Service and Seamless Summer Option programs. This enabled Bulloch County Schools to serve nearly 345,000 free meals to children from March – July while schools were closed due to COVID-19.

In a statement released by the USDA, Secretary Perdue said,“As our nation reopens and people return to work, it remains critical our children continue to receive safe, healthy, and nutritious food. During the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA has provided an unprecedented amount of flexibilities to help schools feed kids through the school meal programs, and today, we are also extending summer meal program flexibilities for as long as we can, legally and financially. We appreciate the incredible efforts by our school food service professionals year in and year out, but this year we have an unprecedented situation. This extension of summer program authority will employ summer program sponsors to ensure meals are reaching all children – whether they are learning in the classroom or virtually – so they are fed and ready to learn,even in new and ever-changing learning environments.”

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s nationwide waivers have enabled the following:·    

  • Allows meals to be served in all areas and at no cost;·
  • Permits meals to be served outside of the typically-required group settings and meal times. This waiver makes our weekly meal service to virtual families possible;·
  • Waives meal pattern requirements as necessary;and·
  • Allows parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children. This waiver also accommodates our virtual learning families.

According to the statement issued by USDA, collectively,these flexibilities will ensure meal options for children continue to be available so children can access meals under all circumstances. While there have been some well-meaning people asking USDA to fund this through the entire 2020-2021 school year, the USDA is obligated to not spend more than is appropriated by Congress. Since the start of the public health emergency, the Food and Nutrition Service has maximized existing program services and flexibilities to ensure those in need have access to food through its 15 federal nutrition assistance programs.

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