The Campbell County School District is extending its food service of providing free breakfast and lunch for students through the summer beyond June 30.

“We’re going to go for sure through the end of July,” said Bryan Young, the districts food services manager.

Providing meals for students at home began March 23 as a way to continue feeding kids when the COVID-19 pandemic closed school buildings. Since the end of the school year, the district has continued providing meals.

To make that happen, the local district had to get a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service’s Summer Food Service Program. The program normally requires feeding program extensions like this one to be in areas where at least 50% of participants are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

The federal agency at first allowed school districts to extend their food services through June 30, and has since extended that through Aug. 31.

Young described the process in Campbell County as a “grab-and-go” model where any adult can stop by distribution locations between 9 a.m. and noon to pick up both breakfast and lunch for their school-aged students.

Beginning Monday, meals will be distributed at seven school sites:

  • Buffalo Ridge Elementary
  • Lakeview Elementary
  • Sunflower Elementary
  • Hillcrest Elementary
  • Pronghorn Elementary
  • Wright Junior High School
  • Rozet Elementary

Members of the Boys & Girls Club of Campbell County are also receiving meals from the district, said Nate Grotrian, the club’s executive director.

The program so far this summer has fed a lot of kids at the club, an average of more than 100 a day.

While the district hasn’t tallied all the meals it’s served through June so far, it reports 116,953 breakfasts and 117,029 lunches were handed out between March 23 and May 11. The district estimated it will serve another 136,000 breakfasts and 136,000 lunches from May 12 and June 30.

“We gave out 2,178 on last Friday,” Young said, adding the number was down from the average Friday tally of 3,700 meals in previous weeks.

Fridays tended to be the highest-volume day of the week, he said.

The Monday through Thursday average now is around 1,700 to 1,800, he said. It had been about 3,400 for those same days earlier in the summer right after school let out.

Campbell County’s numbers are just an example of what’s happening at districts around Wyoming, said Tamra Jackson, director of child nutrition for the state Department of Education.

“All of the meals that were served in April, it was a little over a million meals” distributed at 250 sites across the state, she said.

Jackson said she’s glad for the national waivers that allow 16 communities around the state to feed kids that wouldn’t have qualified without them.

Jackson said she thought COVID-19 has “opened the eyes of people who might complain about school lunches,” which she said happened because school lunches are “an easy target on social media.”

The coronavirus pandemic showed people just how important school lunches are, she said.

Looking ahead, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about public education, including food service programs. Young said he doesn’t want to speculate about a definite date when the Campbell County School District may stop offering meals for kids at home.

One challenge might materialize if there’s a mixture of students attending classes at a school and others doing distance learning.

“Currently the concern is, the way the law is written, when school is open you’re on the National School Lunch Program, and you can’t flip back and forth (between the summer food service program),” Jackson said.

Jackson didn’t want to speculate about what the fall might bring.

“I have no idea what another outbreak would look like, but we’ll figure it out and feed kids,” Jackson said. “I guarantee you.”

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