When the pandemic took root in our lives last March, the VCS Food Services Department took action. In an effort to ensure that all students still have access to healthy and nutritious meals they began offering free meals thanks to financial support from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Today, nine months into the pandemic, VCS Food Services continues to provide free meals. VCS Director of Food Services, Alexandra TePoel-DeWitt, said they will continue to offer free meals until the USDA no longer has funds to support the program. As of now, TePoel-DeWitt said they plan to offer the program until the end of June, 2021.
The VCS free meal program has come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic when students were fully remote and uncertainty loomed large. If it weren’t for the courage and commitment of dedicated food services personnel who prepared the meals, and bus drivers who delivered them, the program would surely have struggled.
Since school reopened in September, the program has evolved to accommodate both hybrid and remote learners utilizing an on-line ordering system called LINQ. TePoel-DeWitt said this app allows students and parents to order meals ahead of time for the days they are not in school. She said it also helps them keep all systems in place, including keeping food services operations, safe for the students. And, now, instead of bus deliveries, families pick up their meals twice a week from our concession stand for both 100% remote learners as well as hybrid students for their days off.
TePoel-DeWitt said considering the free meal program is available to ALL students, it is unfortunate that only 36% of our families are taking advantage of this benefit. The meals offered are nutritious, well-rounded meals, containing fruit, whole grains, protein, vegetables and low fat or fat free milk.
Despite the lower than expected turnout, TePoel-DeWitt said she is proud of the support her department has been able to provide our community. “During a time when so many families have had their lives changed, either due to loss of hours at work or their jobs completely, it is good to know that our department can still ensure that all families, no matter what their current situation is, can receive safe, nutritious and delicious meals for their children. It's one less issue for families to worry about during these uncertain times,” she said.
The Food Services department won’t stop during the upcoming winter break. A special Winter Break Meal Distribution will be offered on Dec. 22nd, to ensure students have the opportunity to eat healthy and nutritious meals over the extended school break.