Winston-Dillard schools are the latest to offer free meals to students for breakfast and lunch.
The school district, and its food services provider, Sodexo, qualified for five years of support from the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program’s Community Eligibility Provision.
“Providing our students with regular healthy meals is crucial to ensuring they are prepared to learn and do their best in the classroom each day,” Winston-Dillard Superintendent Kevin Miller said in a press release. “Thanks to this program, we are better able to support our families and students.”
Sodexo Area Manager Kyle Micken said Phoenix Charter and Yoncalla School District qualified for the same program.
“One of the main reasons why we’re doing it this year is because three years ago legislation passed the lunch-shaming law. Which does not allow us to offer kids who owe money on their lunch balance a courtesy meal, which used to be just a peanut butter sandwich or cheese sandwich and an apple and a milk. Now, we have to give them a full meal and they can charge as much as they want pretty much,” Micken said. “Districts are going in the red every year.”
Roseburg Public Schools had to pay for $70,000 of unpaid lunch balances for the last school year.
Micken said parents no longer have to fill out an application for free or reduced lunch. Students will have access to an all-you-can-eat salad bar.
“I am, and the schools are, very proud of what they offer,” Micken said. “School nutrition gets a bad rep for having processed products, but the truth of it is we have a lot that is made from scratch. Our pizza is made from scratch, our lasagnas, our burgers. What we can do is made from scratch, as much as we can following federal regulations.”
Roseburg Public Schools and South Umpqua School District, in addition to the three districts that offer free meals, participate in a farm to school grant to purchase produce from grown or processed in the state of Oregon.
“If people from the community ever want to come in and check out all the good things we’re doing in nutrition services, they are more than welcome to come as long as they check in with the main office,” Micken said. “Come see all the fantastic things your public school does for you.”
In addition to the free meals, students at Winston Middle School and Douglas High School participating in after-school activities will get free meals provided by the Child and Adult Care Food Program.