Can Kitchener Feed All Its Hungry Students This Fall? Feds Aren’t Helping, Mayor Says – NBC10 Kitchener

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Since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March, the Kitchener School District has provided more than 5 million meals to hungry students.

Due to a change in policy in the federal government, some city students may not be given meals they depend on, officials said Thursday.

The US Department of Agriculture reimburses schools for meals for hungry students. This spring, as the pandemic spread across the country, the department waived many of the meal-related admission requirements. This enabled county locations to provide groceries to any city child or parent who showed up at Grab and Go distribution centers without having to check where a student was enrolled or whether they met other requirements.

However, this USDA waiver has not been reissued and places restrictions on families who may rely on these meal plans. From September 3rd, the school district is:

  • will only be able to provide meals for district students – which means some charter students are not eligible
  • Someone collecting meals for their child must show the child’s student ID or ID number
  • opens more food locations in response to the changing rules.
  • Meals are distributed at the locations every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The total number of meal distribution points has grown to 62, Superintendent William Hite said Thursday. Two locations – Abraham Lincoln High School and Horace Furness High School – have stopped serving meals to make construction projects possible.

Takeaway meals are also available at five charter schools that have contracted catering services with the district:

  • Kipp West PHL Preparatory Charter,
  • Kitchener Electric and Tech Charter,
  • Math Citizens and Science Charter, Prep Charter School of Math, Science Technology and Careers,
  • and Multi Cultural Academy Charter

“We are now only allowed to serve meals to district students because the USDA refused to extend a waiver of the National School Lunch Program,” Hite said.

Speaking at a news conference in town on Wednesday, Mayor Jim Kenney said leaders would “do our best” to ensure no one was turned away from a meal because of rule changes.

“On the previous iteration of the program, people were allowed to pick up for a number of kids around the house, they were allowed to pick up for a neighbor, that’s all gone,” Kenney said.

The city has several places where families can pick up groceries. A map of all of these pickup locations can be found at phila.gov/food. The district information on the food locations is linked here.

“We will continue to stand up for them, the USDA,” said Kenney. “It’s a bipartisan matter, both sides are – no one is arguing that the waiver should be extended. It’s just one of the things this government is doing to make life harder.”

A USDA spokesman said in a statement that the department has made other rule changes that allow districts to be flexible. These changes include allowing bus routes to be used for meal delivery, roadside pickup, and allowing children to be sent home with multiple meals at once.

Other press releases attributed to Agriculture Minister Sonny Perdue mention a lack of funding needed to pay for meals in the next school year.

A school district spokesman said 95 percent of the student population – about 130,000 students – were entitled to free or reduced lunch.

Backpack giveaway

The district will be hosting a backpack giveaway in Lot K outside Lincoln Financial Field on Friday, August 28, Hite said. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., families of 12th grade students can drive across the parking lot and receive a backpack with school supplies for each child in their home.

No children are allowed and each adult can receive a maximum of two bags. No inspections are allowed. Carpooling is fine.

Shop Rite and Converse are among the sponsors of the event. The district expects around 6,000 backpacks.

According to Hite, two other giveaways for backpacks in the Shop Rite stores were fully booked.

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