DISD, SISD to provide free school lunches

Staff Writer
Herald Democrat
A group of students at Mayes Elementary enjoy lunch in this photo from 2019. Both Sherman and Denison Independent School Districts announced that they will provide free lunch and breakfast to all students for the remainder of 2020 as a part of a new USDA initiative.

Students in the Sherman and Denison Independent School districts can look forward to a free breakfast and lunch each school day for the remainder of the calendar year.

Both districts announced late last week that they will be participating in a program with the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will allow the districts to provide free lunch and breakfast to all students regardless of meal plan status or grade level starting on Sept. 14.

“Our community is an at-risk community, so the benefit obviously is to provide all families with the opportunity and eligibility for free meals for their students,” Sherman ISD Food Service Director Mandy Stephens said Monday.

The new program comes through nine nationwide waivers the extend flexibility that was offered over the summer through the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option. Through the program, both districts will be able to provide means to students who have returned to the classroom and those studying remotely.

On an average day, the district serves about 6,500 meals throughout all of its campuses. If all students made use of this program, Stephens said the district could serve 7,400 or more meals daily.

“The reason we took this benefit was because it could help every student in Sherman ISD,” Stephens said. “We could offer a free breakfast and a free lunch to every student regardless of all grade or meal status.”

Stephens said there is no eligibility requirements for this program, but Stephens said the district is encouraging parents to submit their Free and Reduced Meal Application online before Oct. 1.By filling out this application, district officials said students will be on file once the program ends later this year and the free and reduced meal program begins again.

In the announcement of the program, the district noted that families are still responsible for any breakfast or lunch debt accumulated before Sept. 11. Likewise, students will still need money to purchase a la carte food items.

For distance learning students in Denison, the program will work similarly to how lunches were distributed over the summer, DISD Food Service Director Debbie Hosford said.

Students, and family members, will be able to pick up lunches each school day at Scott Middle School and Hyde Park Elementary via drive-thru. Of the meals served Monday, about four were a part of the community feeding component of the district’s program.

Hosford did not want to speculate on the number of students who may need these meals, but said there have been many in the community that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I know a lot of people have been laid of, or their hours have been cut and things like that. So the thought process is that more than likely their incomes are suffering,” she said.

Hosford noted that the program is scheduled to end at the end of 2020, or whenever funding for the program is completely used.

Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.