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Free meals for students extended through end of school year

ALPENA — Students will continue to receive free school meals through the end of the school year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently extended waivers that allow schools to continue to provide meals at no cost to all children through June 30. The waivers also allow parents or guardians to pick-up meals for their children.

The USDA had previously extended free meals through December 31, based on funding available at that time.

Alpena Public Schools Superintendent David Rabbideau said the decision is good news for the district’s students and families.

“We know that students learn better when they are fed, and it is wonderful that the USDA has committed to doing what it can to make sure all students are fed on a regular basis,” Rabbideau said. “Parents should not have to worry about having access to or being able to afford healthy meals for their children. This decision takes that worry off of parents and students and that is a tremendous benefit”

When the state shut schools down in the spring, Rabbideau said there was over a two percent increase in the number of applications for free and reduced lunches. He said the district also served 7,000 more meals at the elementary level in October compared to October of 2019.

Rabbideau said APS employees have also been reaching out to families to make sure no child in the district goes without food.

Alcona Community Schools Food Service Director Nicholas Cordes said because the district is a community eligibility program, students already receive free meals. However, Cordes said the nice part of the program extension is the flexibility in meal program requirements.

The district is now able to create one set of meals for all students instead of meeting separate meal requirements for students in elementary, middle, and high schools.

He said the district has been averaging 135 of the “grab and go” meals a week and an average of 235 of those meals when the entire district transitions to remote learning.

Carl Seiter, superintendent of Hillman Community Schools and Atlanta Community Schools, the district’s staff know how difficult things have been for the families impacted by the pandemic.

“We have out of work families, we have students that still choose to do their learning remotely and we want every child in our community to eat every day,” Seiter said. “Our staff have worked tirelessly with ordering, packaging and delivering these meals to our families.”

But Seiter said some people don’t understand the meals are for any child from 0 to 18 years of age in the communities.

“Just call the schools for details if you have not picked up food before,” he said.

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