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Student breakfast and lunch will continue to be provided after end of school year through Summer Food Service Program

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Posted at 5:36 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-10 20:49:03-04

HELENA — In the COVID-19 pandemic, more families than ever qualified for free or reduced lunches at their school.

Although Wednesday is the last day of the school year for many public schools across the state, there will continue to be food options to kids throughout the summer through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service program (SFSP).

SFSP was founded in 1968, and has grown to provide free summer meals for students across the nation.

At its core, SFSP is intended to make sure children get enough nutrition without breaking the bank.

“The point of the program is it provides free meals so that kids who receive meals during the school year, especially those that receive free and reduced priced meals, can continue to receive meals in the summer and not add a bunch of money to the family's budget,” said Kim Lloyd, Summer Food Service Program manager with the Montanan Office of Public Instruction.

Thousands of Montana families take advantage of the program every year, with more than 700,000 meals served in 2019.

“I think it’s beneficial,” said Adina Timmerman, mother of three, “especially to those in the community that have a hard time providing lunch, providing meals and depend upon the school system to do that. I think that’s great.”

The Summer Food Service Program is open for every school aged child. There is no income requirement, or proof of address.

It doesn’t matter if a family is in their hometown, or visiting like Timmerman and her family were. If a food site is open, the child can get a meal.

When COVID-19 forced the closure of schools, the program activated months earlier than usual to help make sure kids were fed.

“Across the state we’ve definitely seen an increase in need in the program, and just talking with local schools and local organizations they see a need for the program in their community too,” said Lloyd.

School districts and other food providers across the state adapted to meet the needs of their community during COVID-19. Busses were converted to meal delivery vehicles, and menus were changed to be more grab-and-go friendly.

General Manager Sodexo School Services Robert Worthy says it has been a challenge to figure out how to feel thousands of kids every week with an uncertain food supply chain.

“At the beginning it wasn’t so bad,” explained Worthy.”But when the rest of the country started feeding kids the same way, all those things that fit in a sack got eaten up real quick. The regular providers just weren’t able to keep up.”

According to Worthy, the supply chains have improved, but there are still a lot of issues.

However, even with the headaches, Worthy says his team is committed to making sure every child has a meal that needs or wants one.

“This program is for everybody,” said Worthy. “It doesn’t matter if you’re making $100,000 a year of $5,000 a year. This is a program meant for the kids. That’s all we care about, serving kids and right now this is a situation that’s so unique that everybody could use a program like this.”

At its core, SFSP is intended to make sure children get enough nutrition without breaking the bank.

“The point of the program is it provides free meals so that kids who receive meals during the school year, especially those that receive free and reduced priced meals, can continue to receive meals in the summer and not add a bunch of money to the family's budget,” said Lloyd.

There are more than 400 locations across Montana that offer summer meals for kids.

Just text “FOOD” to 877-877 and you’ll get information about the Summer Food Sites that are nearby.

Unlike previous years, the meal program is providing both a breakfast and a lunch for kids every day of the week.

In Helena summer meals will be distributed every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each pick-up will contain meals for multiple days.

Helena Locations and Times:

  • Four Georgians 10:00am – 11:15am
  • Dollar Tree 10:00am – 11:15pm
  • Jim Darcy 10:15am – 11:30am
  • CVS (603 N Montana) 11:45am – 1:00pm
  • Bryant: 11:45am – 1:00pm
  • Warren 11:45am – 1:00pm
  • Rossiter 12:00pm – 1:00pm
  • Broadwater: 1:15pm – 2:00pm
  • Central: 1:15pm – 2:00pm
  • Smith 1:30pm – 2:00pm
  • Skelton 1:30pm – 2:00pm

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