| Dennis Hackett
WESTFIELD – After supplying meals to students in need dating back to March, the USDA extended the Grab and Go meals program in Westfield to the end of the year.
Rachel Kania, Westfield Public Schools’ director of Food Services, said that while the current last possible date for the free meals is Dec. 31, the program could end as soon as November with its current funding.
“They gave Dec. 31 as a date, but they also followed that up by saying that when the funds run out, that’s the end of the program. Could be at the beginning of November we get cut off because the USDA funds have run out. They only have the funds approved through the end of 2020 and funds in 2021 have not been talked about yet,” she said.
While lunches have been available at the Abner Gibbs and Franklin Avenue Schools for the summer, Kania said after Sept. 14 lunches will be available for pick up at every school in the district.
“For elementary schools we will be doing 11:30 [a.m.] to 12:30 [p.m.] and secondary schools will be 11 [a.m.] to 12 [p.m.], based on when they have their remote learning breaks. This is based on when they have their remote learning breaks so people can get in the car and pick up a meal before school resumes,” Kania said.
Among the changes with the extension, the district will also allow children not currently enrolled in school to pick up meals as well.
In order to pick up meals at the schools, Kania said that parents need to call ahead and place their order the day before.
“Every school will be open for it, but we ask that you call the school the day ahead by noontime to put in your order for the next day so that we are not being wasteful about this program, she said.
She added that even once the district fully enters the hybrid model, the district will still offer meals for the remote learners.
“As long as there are remote kids, we will have a grab and go option. It may not be that it’s free after Dec. 31, whenever this ends, we go back to our normal statuses. So, if you’re paid you have to pay full price, if you’re reduced you have to pay the reduced price,” Kania said.
Currently, children have three options for meals.
“The options are the main meal that is listed on the menu, or we do offer a yogurt meal or peanut butter and jelly. So, the yogurt meal comes yogurt, granola, fruit, a vegetable and milk, and the same goes for the peanut butter and jelly,” she said.
People interested in picking up the meals can find the menu on both the Boys and Girls Club website and the Westfield Public Schools website as well.
As of Sept. 3, Kania said the district had sent out over 100,000 meals to students through the Grab and Go program since the pandemic began in March.
Along with the Grab and Go program, Kania said that three elementary schools are now a part of the Community Eligibility Program.
“That means that now Abner Gibbs, Franklin Avenue, and Paper Mill, regardless of what programs that we are running, they will have free breakfast and lunch for the next four years,” she said.