Tricia McDaniel stacked containers of chicken salad, strawberries and cinnamon rolls in plastic bags outside the Garden City Boys & Girl’s Club in late August, adding cartons of milk to finish off a grab-and-go meal kit, writes Idaho EdNews reporter Sami Edge. McDaniel had perfected the routine over the past six months, when the Boys & Girls’ club handed out 230,000 free breakfasts and lunches to kids across the Treasure Valley. But the chicken salad lunch was one of the last free meals McDaniel planned to pack.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture had allowed school districts and community providers to give all children free food during the spring and summer months under a Summer Food Service Program that feeds kids when schools are closed down. But that program was set to expire in September. The USDA told schools it would have to revert to the National School Lunch Program, which requires students to pay or apply for free and reduced priced meals. Community programs would have to phase out their free summer feeding.
That plan changed suddenly last week, Edge reports. On Aug. 31 the USDA granted an extension to summer feeding programs through the end of the year. The change means community groups can keep operating food programs, and school districts can decide to offer free meals to kids this fall or move to the more traditional National School Lunch Program.
The last-minute change meant whiplash for child nutrition programs across Idaho. You can read Edge's full story here online at idahoednews.org, or pick up Saturday's print edition of the Idaho Press.