By Cindy Zomar, Education Coordinator
MARLBOROUGH – An extension of the measures taken to provide food continuity during the height of the pandemic, the Summer Lunch program at the Marlborough Public Schools (MPS) is going strong.
When schools were forced to close and move to remote learning in the spring of 2020, the MPS Food Services Department shifted into high gear to make sure that children did not go hungry.
Director of Finance and Operations Doug Dias praised both the state and federal governments for acting quickly at that time to issue waivers that allowed school systems to serve meals outside the traditional buildings and still get reimbursed.
The news created some logistical issues that needed to be solved, but Dias said he enjoyed those challenges.
Facilities adapt to continue expanded food service
Because Marlborough was approved for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), allowing schools to provide breakfast and lunch to all students for free, every family in the city was eligible for food delivery from school busses that ferried food around the city at the height of the pandemic.
“The majority of the costs are federally reimbursed, but it’s not about profit; we’re not running a restaurant, we’re feeding kids,” Dias said.
When the students returned to their buildings nearly a year later, the schools continued providing free meals for all, even offerings breakfasts at the end of the school day for students to take home for the next morning.
No applications were required.
Dias has high hopes of increasing the participation in the free lunch program in part due to the lack of the application.
“By eliminating the applications, the stigma should also go away, and we hope to entice more families to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.
Free food remains accessible during summer
Throughout this summer, there have been three ways for families to get their free breakfasts and lunches.
MPS does have some credit recovery and enrichment programs running. Individuals attending those programs can get their meals there. There are also open sites at the high school and Richer school on Mondays and Thursdays, from 9 – 11:30 a.m. where families can pick up enough meals for three days for anyone in the household eighteen and under by calling either the high school at 508-460-3500 x 7109 or Richer at 508-460-3504 x133.
If anyone is unable to do those times, there are two bus routes through the city on Monday and Thursdays, delivering 1,800 – 2,000 door-to-door meals per week. Information for delivery is available by calling Julie Whapham at 508-460-3500 x7109.
When school starts in the fall, there may no longer be deliveries. But Dias hopes that the 75% participation rate will continue to rise.
“When you take down the barriers, with no financial transactions necessary, it should just be automatic that meals are included with the academic program offered in the city,” he said.