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Schools in Volusia serving free meals should require eating on site

For some families, summer is a carefree season characterized by pool parties, popsicles and camp programs.

For others, it’s a season where you don’t always know if your child will eat that day.

Institutions continue to return to pre-pandemic operations to the satisfaction of many, but some officials and parents say summer dining programs may stay the same.

During summers affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Foodservice Program has relaxed its guidelines, allowing families with children under 18 to pick up a box containing seven days of breakfasts and lunches at sites throughout Volusia County.

The programs, funded by the USDA and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, made the food available for pickup at schools, libraries, churches and other community sites.

This summer, children attending the School Way Café, a department of Volusia County Schools, must eat their free meals on-site, as was done before the pandemic, as USDA Food and Nutrition Service waivers expired. .

The School Way Café Summer Food Service program provides breakfast and lunch to students 18 and under during the period between the end of the school year and the start of summer programs.

With gas prices as high as they are, some fear that parents of children most in need of food assistance will struggle to get their children to food sites if they don’t live nearby. walking distance or if they don’t have reliable transportation.

“It’s definitely going to impact our ability to get our kids to eat,” Volusia County School Board President Ruben Colón said by phone Friday.

Colón said it’s clear that take-out meals are working well for families, but there’s not much the school district can do in this particular situation.

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“Each summer feeding site is affected by the same regulation,” Colon said.

Popular blog Volusia County Moms received a question about the issue from a parent, who preferred to remain anonymous, and posted it Wednesday afternoon on the blog’s Facebook page.

The message read: “I happened to be at the library at lunchtime the other day and they offered my child a lunch bag, but then explained how it was to be eaten there. I was a bit taken aback by the rules, and just thought how unrealistic it would be for a struggling family to go to the library, between a small window of time, twice a day just to have their child can have breakfast and lunch. parents, how would this be feasible? especially someone with a low income?

About six dozen people commented on the post.

“Last summer being able to pick up all week was convenient for parents but very difficult for lunch ladies/workers as they had to prep all week… I heard it was even more difficult this year because they are understaffed,” wrote Beth Goodroe.

Jeri Cole wrote that most government-run programs aren’t exactly user-friendly.

“Not to mention that COVID numbers are increasing and many of these children have immunocompromised parents and grandparents,” Cole wrote.

She said the children might be immunocompromised themselves.

“There should be nothing wrong with giving a kid a lunch bag and telling them to have a good day,” Cole wrote. “Where they choose to consume should be between themselves and their parents.”

Parents or guardians of children not attending a summer school program must place an order for a meal 24 hours in advance by calling the front desk of the school where they plan to eat.

Most sites serve meals Monday through Thursday, June 13 through July 28; all sites will be closed on the 4th of July.

Some sites also serve meals on Fridays.

Find the nearest site and details on opening days and hours at summerbreakspot.org.