Public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, will go back to charging some students for their meals when the new school year begins.
Since the start of the pandemic, the school district has been able to offer free meals to all students in the county thanks to an emergency waiver, but that waiver ends with the new school year.
The last day to get free meals is Wednesday, Aug. 26.
“We will be giving out triple meals, so when families come they will be able to pick up Wednesday, Thursday and Friday meals together,” said Essie McGuire, executive director of operations for Montgomery County Public Schools.
Starting Monday, Aug. 31, the school district has to switch back to the National School Lunch Program, which means students will be charged standard prices for breakfast and lunch, while students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals will continue to receive them.
Under the summer meal service program, families could pick up meals at a number of community locations, but starting Monday, those meals will be available for curbside pickup at 74 county school campuses from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., every weekday except for Thursdays.
Families don’t have to pick up meals at the school their child is attending if there is a closer one providing meals.
“Families will be able to go to any of the 74 school sites,” McGuire said. “You can pick up the meals for all of your students at one place, for all the students that are in your home.”
Each student must have an ID number to pick up a meal.
“A letter went home to every MCPS family this week that provides both the student ID numbers and also a bar code,” McGuire said. “Families can bring the bar code, ID numbers or a picture of the bar code — any of those things with you — to the school sites, and that way we can check each student into the system and distribute the meals that way.”
Some board members expressed concerns that families may encounter difficulties traveling to schools during the limited meal pick-up times.
McGuire said that officials can try to adjust the program if they discover problems as the school year gets underway.
And while the summer waivers that had allowed meals to be delivered to communities have ended, McGuire said many officials are pushing for extensions of those waivers or for new ones. If those come through, she said, the school system will take advantage of any flexibility it is given to more easily serve meals to more children.
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