School lunches free through June 2021 – Covid relief
By now, many of us have received a small check from the government to help with the global pandemic. More information about your stimulus check and what the amount may be can be found here. While we are thankful to finally get something, I do hope that with the changing of administrations there may be a larger amount given to those in the lower and middle class rather than the ultra wealthy; but we shall see. One thing that families can count on for the rest of the school year is free school lunches. Covid relief originally included free school breakfast and lunches for all families through December. Thankfully for many, that has been extended through June.
Who is eligible for free school lunches?
Every child is eligible for school breakfast and lunches. There is no income verification or requirements. Prior to the pandemic, school lunches were provided for free or for a discount for children who had proof their income was low enough. Now any child ages 2 to 18 is eligible. How lunches and breakfasts are distributed varies district to district. Make sure to check with your school district for how to pick up.
If I take school lunches, will it take from kids who truly need it?
Nope. You picking up a school lunch for your child will not take one away from a child that is in more need. Our school administrator explained to me that us picking up meals only helps insure that the program continues. If there are not enough families participating there is a chance those funds will dry up. You picking up lunches and breakfasts at school for your kids actually helps other kids who are in need of the program. This program is something every child in America is entitled to, and so far it seems to be working well.
We were told in the beginning that our district had such little turn out that it was in danger of losing funding. We did not pick up lunches at first because I was worried that we might take the ‘last one’ and a child that needs it would go without. I was assured that this is not at all the case, that us picking up consistently helps keep funding so those who are MOST vulnerable have the option available. Our family has taken a small hit this year due to Covid and the simple option of a premade lunch option available while my kids virtual school is great, but know it is helping others is just as important to me.
Other FREEBIES to help stretch budgets –
What is in free school lunches?
Honestly? A lot of salt, sugar, and preservatives. It is free, so I am not complaining, but much of it is not very nutritious. Our school offers a once a week pick up of all school lunches for the next week. Cafeteria staples like burritos, pizza slices, chicken sandwiches, burgers, and frozen Mac and Cheese are almost always in the package. We’ve also noticed sunbutter and jelly premade sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches, coffee cake, and cereals for breakfast. Our school lunches come with individual milks or a quart of milk as well as apple juice. The fruits and veggies we have received vary slightly. Over the past few months our kids school lunches have included raisins, dried cranberries, apple sauce, yogurt parfait with fresh fruit (fancy!), pears, apples, oranges, plums, nectarines, fresh carrots, edamame packs, whole potatoes, as well as frozen bags of broccoli, corn, diced carrots, peas, and green beans.
On holidays, our district also had bonus items. Kids will not be in school, but the school provides food for those days off. Before Thanksgiving break and Winter break there were additional items added to our kid’s lunch and breakfast packages to fill in the gaps while at home.
As a mom who tries to keep things healthy; I think things could be better. That said, our kids love the choices they have with school provided breakfast and lunch. We insist that they have a fresh fruit or vegetable item with each meal and let them pick what they want. While our kids can supplement with other items in our fridge, I know many kids cannot. While the lunches our kids get are better than the lunches I remember seeing in my school cafeteria, there is so much further to go. I hope there will still be improvements made in the future.
Are free school lunches allergy friendly?
Unfortunately, school lunches are the same for every child at the school. School lunches may not be super healthy, but according to the current standards they are balanced. Nutritional information is available on the packaging of many items to help avoid an allergic reaction. We have personally swapped dairy items with neighbors who won’t eat the fruit or veggies offered. It isn’t a perfect solution, but even kids with allergies should be able to find something they can eat in school provided lunches. Also, while our school district does not offer an option for kids with allergies; others might. It never hurts to ask if there is an option for those with allergies.
How do you get free school lunch?
Every school is different. Some schools distribute once a day. Our school distributes once a week. I would check with your school district for how to pick up.
What to do with things your child will not eat?
There is little I hate more than wasting food. Even if there are items we cannot eat or simply do not like, I do not want to toss it. We found ways to make sure it doesn’t go to waste. We swap and get creative.
Many people do not pick up school lunches because they know their child may not enjoy some of the items or they may have allergies. Nobody wants to waste food. Our kids have been enjoying ‘free school lunches’ since it became the only real Covid relief we were eligible for. We have found that some things our kids cannot finish in time. There are a couple items that our kids just do not like. We have three kids at three different schools meaning the menu items vary a bit. They have learned to swap among themselves to avoid waste. I’ve also found myself using small bags of green beans and carrots in soups for dinner. I don’t think our kids will ever warm up a bag of frozen veggies, but it works into dinner so they still get the nutrition.
We also give items away. About every other week we also give away items on our local ‘Buy Nothing’ group on Facebook. I never buy dairy items, and while our big kids like the ‘treat’ of dairy yogurts and school pizza in school lunches, they never drink the milks. We typically bundle stuff up that we won’t use and offer it to those who can use it. Sometimes people pick up or I drive it over to someone in our neighborhood. Our giveaways usually consist of milk quarts, juices, a couple burritos, most of the cereal bowls, and fruit from our tree if in season. Someone is always happy to come take it off our hands. Giving it away on a public forum also gives you the opportunity to inform others about the free program. I typically will get a message asking about how to get meals. Many people simply do not realize that the free food is available to ALL children regardless of family income.
While this free lunch for all program began early in the pandemic, it continues to surprise me how few people take advantage or even know about it. I encourage you to share this information with your friends and family. Feel free to share this post on social and with anyone who could benefit.