A handful of White River School District families lined up in front of a school bus to pick up sack breakfasts and lunches for their children back in March, when the pandemic began. Photo courtesy White River School District

A handful of White River School District families lined up in front of a school bus to pick up sack breakfasts and lunches for their children back in March, when the pandemic began. Photo courtesy White River School District

Learning is remote, but school meals will still be distributed to students

The pandemic forced schools to provide meals for free, but students will now resume paying for their lunches.

Students might be learning from home these days and staring at a computer screen rather than a teacher, but that doesn’t mean meals will be skipped.

That’s the goal of food service workers in both the Enumclaw and White River school districts. As the summer food programs wind down, leaders in the Child Nutrition Programs – Tracy Holyan in Enumclaw and Richard Noble at White River – are gearing up for a school year that will bring unprecedented change.

Both supervisors explain the situation simply: online learning might be the new normal, but school will still be in session and that means breakfast and lunch will be available to all students.

In Enumclaw, the operation will be much like the summer program that ends this week. Holyan will have staff from every district school (and that includes the Birth To Five Center) handing out food between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. each school day. She’s hoping to add a later distribution time, perhaps 4 to 6 p.m., at a couple of sites to accommodate parents who simply cannot get away in the middle of the day.

Each day, a grab-and-go bag will include that day’s lunch and the next morning’s breakfast.

The difference between the coming school year, which begins Sept. 1 in Enumclaw, and the summer program is cost. Summer meals are free; once school starts, things will operate as they always have. Families pay for breakfast and/or lunch, while opportunities remain for free or reduced-cost meals.

Holyan notes the importance of families applying not if they wish to participate in the free/reduced program.

All details about the food service program are available through the district website, www.enumclaw.wednet.edu. Click on “District Departments” and then “Nutrition Services.” Links are available for online payment options or signing up for the free/reduced program.

The details are similar in the White River School District, Noble reported.

Department staff will be available Monday through Friday at each school, somewhere around the noon hour (times haven’t been firmed up), handing out to-go meals. Each sack will contain that day’s lunch and the next day’s breakfast.

The exception to the “every school” rule is the district’s Early Learning Center. Parents with kids at the ELC will pick up their meals next door at Mountain Meadow Elementary School.

While the summer food program is a free service for anyone 18 or younger, White River’s school lunch program will operate financially as it always has. That is, student lunches must be paid for. Parents will put money on their child’s account, just as they did in previous years.

That task can be handled through the district’s website, www.whiteriver.wednet.edu, by clicking “Departments” and then “Child Nutrition.”

Through the same link, parents can find information about applying for free or reduced-cost meals.

When meals are picked up, a student’s ID number must be provided so the account can be charged.

Both Holyan and Noble understand that some parents have kids at more than one school and, according to USDA rules, meals must be picked up at their child’s school. That means some parents will need to stop at an elementary, then a middle school and then the high school. The food service crews would like to see changes made but, for now, that’s how things must operate.

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