All of Whidbey’s school-aged children can receive free meals through the end of the year after support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture extended free meal programs.
Oak Harbor, Coupeville and South Whidbey school districts are all offering free meals to any child under the age of 18 on the island.
Every kid qualifies for the free meals, not just families who have applied for free and reduced lunch.
The USDA waived certain requirements that allow school districts to expand free meal service through Dec. 31.
Oak Harbor Public Schools
“Especially in this time, for families who are struggling, who don’t have the funds to supply meals for kids going to school, it’s just one less thing for them to worry about,” said Melissa Miller, food services director at Oak Harbor Public Schools.
The district saw the need for meals last spring when one school gave out 500 meals a day. Over the summer, the district served 30,429 breakfasts and 30,429 lunches to students through its meals program.
Families can pick up meals at each school from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday beginning the first day of school on Sept. 14., the district said. Breakfast and lunch will be given out daily at the schools and there will be several buses that will deliver meals to various locations. Students do not need to be with the person picking up their meals, and the person picking up the meals does not need to give the student’s name.
The district said more information would be on its website by next week.
Coupeville School District
Families in Coupeville can pick up a school week’s worth of food all at once in boxes, the school district said.
Pickup times will be Wednesdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursdays from 8 – 10 a.m. beginning Sept. 16. Each box will have five breakfasts and five lunches for each child available for pickup at Coupeville High School.
“We’re hoping to target between 350-400 students. I would be thrilled if we can get 400 kids a week starting our first delivery,” Coupeville School District Food Service Director Andreas Wurzrainer said, adding “We want to try to make it as easy as possible to be able to have access to this food.”
The school district did not have a summer meal program and instead directed families to other resources on the island. During the year, Wurzrainer said, more than a third of the student body qualified for free and reduced-cost lunch.
“The most important thing is that it’s free for any kid. This is free for any kid in our community under the age of 18 – they don’t have to be enrolled in our district,” Wurzrainer said.
For more information, visit the school district’s Connected Food Program page on its website.
South Whidbey School District
Students in the South Whidbey School District can receive grab-and-go meals from the South Whidbey High School parking lot near the school’s kitchen. Grab- and-go meal service began Sept. 3 and delivered meals will begin Sept. 14, according to its website.
The district asks that families fill out an online form by 9 a.m. of the day they want to start receiving the meals so staff know how many to make.
Multiple days of food will be given twice a week. Breakfast and lunch for Monday through Wednesday will be available on Monday, and meals for Thursday and Friday will be available on Thursday. Meals can also be delivered if requested.
Visit the school district’s website for the online form and more information about the school lunch program.
Families who qualify for free and reduced meals should still file an application with their school districts because it can affect more than just meals, although it is not required to receive the free meals this fall, according to the South Whidbey School District website.
The USDA has not extended the free meal assistance through the 2020-21 school year, explaining it can only spend what has already been earmarked by Congress.