By Chris Bavender
For the second year, Westfield Washington Schools is offering free breakfast and lunch to all pre-K through 12th-grade students through a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture program. It runs through June 30.
“The program started during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure all children had access to meals without the concern of income qualifications,” said Brian Tomamichel, Westfield Washington Schools assistant superintendent for business.
Tomamichel said administrators know that when students are fed, they can focus better at school.
“Any opportunity we have to make it easier for our students to have access to breakfast and/or lunch, we want to make sure we take all necessary steps to provide that to our families,” he said.
The school district utilizes the National School Lunch Program, a federally funded assisted meal program that operates not only in public and private schools, but also in child care facilities.
“Under normal circumstances, schools would receive credit based on the number of meals served and at what financial level the student was approved at either paid, reduced, or free,” Tomamichel said. “This district currently uses two separate programs under the NSLP, which are the Seamless Summer Option K-12 and the Child and Adult Care Food Program for our infant through pre-K programs.
Students simply go through the cafeteria line and the district is responsible for tracking the number of meals served. Students can still get additional items at lunch for an additional cost, but a standard breakfast or lunch are free.
“(The first week of March), we served over 5,000 lunches in a single day,” Tomamichel said. “On any given day, we can see anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of our students eat a school lunch.”
Information on free meals has been included in district communication since the 2020-21 school year. The district includes reminders of free meals in the weekly Shamrock Blast as well.
Tomamichel said it is unclear if the program will be extended beyond June 30.