Roaring Fork School District embraces USDA’s decision to continue reimbursing student meals until June 2022 | PostIndependent.com
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Roaring Fork School District embraces USDA’s decision to continue reimbursing student meals until June 2022

Thanks to the USDA’s decision to extend the waiver program, schools across the country will be able to provide free meals to their students through June 2022. The extension was discussed at the previous Roaring Fork School Board meeting where Superintendent Rob Stein clarified that even though applications aren’t required from students and families to receive the meals, it is still important that they fill them out.

“The main point is we still want people to continue, if they think they qualify to submit the paperwork and to always give us accurate contact information,” Stein said. “There are other benefits to families, students and schools if you qualify, even if you don’t say, want lunch at school.”

Funding from the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer will also be available in the coming school year, an option to reimburse families if they qualify for free and reduced lunch but their student isn’t attending classes in-person. School Board member Jasmin Ramirez said within her conversations with some of the families in the district there was some hesitation about submitting the information required to receive these funds.



“There’s a lot of families who have just gone to other food distribution sites or … maybe it didn’t make sense at the time for them to do an application. … I also know that there was a little bit of concern about sharing information because the census had just happened,” Ramirez said.

Octavio Maese, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for RFSD, said the district will keep up its current system for meal distribution for all students and local young people who may not be enrolled or attending school under the age of 18 through the end of next school year.



“It’s the same model we have this year as far as just providing breakfast and lunch for students everyday in-person. We will continue to monitor the need of our bulk meal distribution and adjust that or add to that as needed,” Maese said.

For Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer applications, Maese said it is separate from the free and reduced application, but the qualifying information in the free and reduced forms can rollover to help students and families qualify for Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfers. Those funds are provided on the federal level and Maese said for more information families can visit this link and the number he directs families to is 1-888-328-2656, a hotline with support for those who speak languages other than English.

“Even though all meals are free again for another year, it’s still vital to our information, our record-keeping, our statistics and funding to have everyone fill out a free and reduced meal application,” Maese said.

With the funding surplus, Maese said one of his goals is to continue providing diverse menu options to the district’s students and play around with implementing more costly ingredients to continue improving the overall quality of meals.

“This year was a great snapshot, obviously the more data and statistics we have related to cost is kind of a main driving factor. But on a personal side I think it’s wonderful that we’re able to provide meals at no cost, that are then reimbursed to our department by the federal government. … We’ve served more students than we anticipated this year,” Maese said.

The summer schedule for bulk meal distribution is 4-6 p.m. or while food packs last on Wednesdays starting June 2, at Glenwood Springs Elementary School and Basalt Elementary School.

 

Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or jpeterson@postindependent.com.


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