SDR students will eat for free this fall
9/2/20 UPDATED STORY: The school district has been informed that the USDA has given school districts the ability to provide FREE meals to all students.
By Eileen Persike
The School District of Rhinelander’s blended learning plan, along with the large number of virtual learning students this fall, has created a challenge for the district’s food service director. And a requirement to be flexible.
Last week a district-wide email was sent out from the “Lunch Ladies,” detailing how school lunches will be served this fall, and what the cost will be. Tuesday night, district families received a message telling them all lunches will be free, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
As in past years, all students will be offered school lunch on the days they are in school. What is different is that with the
USDA’s approval, going forward students in school will be offered breakfast and lunch at no charge. The district food service will also offer these free meals on the days they are remote learning – not physically in school, including the virtual learning students.
District food service director Pat Karaba said last spring, when in-school classes were canceled, they packaged and distributed up to 1,000 meals a day. This fall they will also be serving lunch to the students who are in school, meaning there won’t be a dull moment in the food service department.
“We’re here for the kids, and this will help the district families,” she said. “I could not do it without my wonderful staff. We are given challenges and we succeed.”
A few additional food service changes have been made; including that elementary students will eat lunch in their classrooms. A third lunch shift has been added at the high school and seats are marked to promote social distancing at the middle and high school. In-school lunch options have changed for all grade levels, Karaba said, because everything will be served.
“There will be no self-serve pizza, fruits and vegetables, burgers. Now we have to serve that and we can’t offer as many options due to the fact that we’re serving,” she said, adding that there will be a couple of entrée choices for students the first couple of weeks, and “after things settle” they will look at offering another choice.
“I know some places are thinking they could self serve if it’s a pre-wrapped,” Karaba said. “And if they touch it they take it. Haven’t gone there yet but we’ll see how they behave, see their mannerisms and things like that, see how they’re taking this. Because if they’re not [taking it seriously] then we couldn’t go to something like that.
Meal pick up for non-in school days
Families of “Green” middle and high school students who want breakfasts and lunches for the days they are not physically in school, Wednesday-Friday, will pick them up behind the high school (door No. 18) from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday. Elementary families will also pick up food for their remote learning day at this time.
“Gold” students’ meals would be picked up 4-6 p.m. Mondays, and virtual learning students who want lunches will stop by the back of the high school 4-6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays. Each pick up would include multiple days of meals.
Karaba asks for patience as the schedules and numbers of meals is figured out, saying that “things might not be as fluid” as they were last spring. Families can keep updated on the pickup schedules and more on the district’ COVID information page, rhinelander.k12.wi.us/district/covid-19.cfm.
Anyone with questions regarding the school lunch program can call Karaba at 715-365-9547.