When COVID-19 suddenly shut down Minnesota schools in March, food service staff scrambled when they learned that providing meals to go for students was part of the plan for distance learning. When the Osseo School District resumed Distance Learning on Monday, Sept. 14, all students again have a free meal option due to funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The free meal program will last until further notice.
Breakfast and lunch bundles will be available for curbside pick-up daily at all Osseo schools from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily through Friday, Sept. 25, and students will receive breakfast and lunch. When the district shifts to the hybrid learning model on Monday, Sept. 28, students will be served free meals at school and will receive breakfast and lunch bundles for their distance learning days at the end of each school day. Parents who do not wish for their child to be given meals for their home learning days are asked to opt out of this service.
For students enrolled in the Distance Learning Academy, the meal schedule is the same from Sept. 14 to 25 with the curbside option available. Beginning Sept. 25, free five-day meal boxes will be available each Friday for the following week. Students who want the weekly meal pack need to sign up by noon on the Thursday prior to pick-up day. If students wish to opt out of this program, they are asked to cancel by noon each Thursday.
“I was not expecting an extension of free meals this late,” said Jeff Ansorge, Director of Food and Nutritional Services for Osseo Area Schools. “We were hopeful that it would be extended, but being so close to the beginning of school and receiving clear direction from the Minnesota Department of Education to plan on regular business, it was a bit of a shock. I am ecstatic that we are able to increase accessibility and better provide for our families as a result of the free meal waiver.”
Though the food service team had limited time to prepare, Ansorge said he expects the staff to serve 3,000-5,000 breakfast and lunches per day for the first two weeks of the program. That projection rises to 12,000 breakfasts and 12,000 lunches a day when the district shifts to the hybrid model.
Because the food staff had to scramble last spring to implement a similar program, Ansorge said they are ready for many scenarios.
“Last spring and summer’s curbside was an opportunity to get our staff in the routine of packaging meals for children,” Ansorge said. It also allowed us an opportunity to evaluate our operations and evolve them for continued improvement. Heading into the fall school year, we find ourselves operating in multiple formats.”
Details of the meal program are available on the district website, and Ansorge said it will be updated in a timely manner when changes occur.