WINCHESTER — Area school divisions recently received permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend their free school meal-distribution programs until Dec. 31.
The program, which allows any school-aged child to receive meals, began in mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic forced Virginia schools to close their buildings for in-person instruction.
During the six-month period that public schools in Winchester, Frederick County and Clarke County were closed, school staff made meals available for pick up.
Now that schools have reopened for the 2020-21 academic year, all students — whether they’re enrolled in partial in-person learning or 100% distance learning — are able to continue to get free breakfast and lunch meals in all three school divisions.
In Frederick County Public Schools, students attending in-person classes will receive a free meal the days they are in school as well as the days they are not in school.
FCPS students participating in distance learning can pick up free breakfast and/or lunch each school day from 10 to 11 a.m. at any school in the division at special drive-through sites on campus.
FCPS officials are still encouraging families who are eligible to sign up for the federal free and reduced-cost meal program so students will continue receiving meals once the distribution program ends.
From March 20 through July 30, FCPS distributed 210,582 free meals. The number of meals served remained relatively steady, said Steve Edwards, the division’s coordinator of policy and communications.
Clarke County Public Schools served 100,848 meals from March 16 through Aug. 31.
Now that school is back in session, Nickole Kinsey, general manager for food services for CCPS, said students in both distance and hybrid learning models can pick up meals at Clarke County High School on Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. and on Fridays from 8-11 a.m.
Students who attend in-person classes two days a week will receive free meals when they are at school. Only elementary students in CCPS have the option to attend in-person classes. Middle and high school students are currently enrolled in online learning.
From mid-March through Monday, Winchester Public Schools distributed 101,166 free breakfast and lunch meals. The number of meals served declined over the summer, said Laurie Curry, the division’s food service coordinator.
WPS students can pick up free meals at each of the division’s seven schools from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, whether they’re signed up for in-person classes or enrolled in online learning.
Students enrolled in partial in-person learning will receive six meals (three breakfasts and three lunches) and those enrolled online classes will receive 10 meals (five breakfasts and five lunches). Those attending in-person classes will receive free breakfast and lunch on the days they’re at school.