SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – In the case of an outbreak of COVID-19, feeding school kids will be a big concern among Utah’s school districts.
According to the State Board of Education, about a third of the state’s student body is on free or reduced-price lunch.
“If it gets worse and we actually start looking at school closures, we just filed four wavier requests with the Department of Agriculture to allow us some flexibility with the school lunch program so we can keep that going,” said Utah State Board Of Education Mark Peterson.
The Utah Board of Education reports 54,067,572 students are on free or reduced lunches. Those lunches are given to students at 972 sites. Meaning more than 330,375 students rely on schools each day for a balanced meal.
“So this is a fairly substantial way of how kids eat in the State of Utah,” said Peterson.
Two of the waivers the USDA could approve would allow schools to distribute food outside of the cafeterias.
“From a needs standpoint, that is part of the reason we are looking for these waivers so that school districts can do it in a nearby park and make it work with a grab and go at a nearby park – great,” Peterson adds. “When you bring all the kids together in a cafeteria that’s sort of counterproductive to having the school closed.”
One waiver would address the requirements for school lunches.
“If we don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables that should be there, can we put in apple sauce in its place,” he said. “If we can’t get milk or juice, can we put water in its place and still have it work.”
Another waiver would allow schools in the area that don’t meet the requirements of a high need school to cover lunch meals for students affected by COVID-19 closures.
If all four waivers are approved the State Board of Education will advise school districts of the new flexibility.
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