Photo of children with face masks social distancing in a cafeteria line

School meals – What you need to know for this year

Aug. 6, 2020 – What’s new this year with school meals?

Some things are the exactly the same. This includes the fact that breakfast is free for all students, and that at the majority of our schools, lunch is also free.

To no one’s surprise, some things may seem different. This is true for how meals were provided this past March, April and May and how meals will be provided when schools reopen.

Why is that?

The reason is that toward the end of spring, there was a special federal emergency order that lifted the restrictions that are normally placed on school districts. Because those federal rules were lifted, school districts such as Duval County Public Schools were allowed to provide free meals at no cost to all children regardless of where they were enrolled.

But that special federal order has expired. What does that mean for your student? Review the bullet points below.

  • Free breakfast at every school; free lunch at 124 schools: This has not changed. The district is continuing in its policy to offer free breakfast at all schools through participation in two federal programs: The Universal Free Breakfast program and the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program (also known as the National School Lunch program).  In addition to free breakfast, students who attend one of the district’s 124  CEP schools also receive a free lunch; no forms or applications needed. For students who attend a non-CEP school, the standard lunch for elementary is $1.95 and for secondary, it is $2.50. The reduced price is $.40 for all grade levels.
  • Free and Reduced Meal applications available on the district website: This has not changed. Families of students who attend one of the 29 non-CEP schools can submit a federal Free and Reduced Meal application. Many who may not have been eligible in the past may be eligible now due to COVID-19 hardships. The form is available on the district’s website at in both English and Spanish.
  • Students enrolled in at-school option: For elementary school students, the “at-school” option begins on a 5-day schedule, and meals will be provided as normal.  For secondary students, the “at-school” option begins on a hybrid schedule and there are a couple things of which to be aware.
    • One, on the days they are attending school at the school location, they can pick up their meals for the days they will be attending school online. These meals will be frozen with heat-and-serve instructions.
    • Two, pick up time and locations are determined by each school.  Contact your school for its specific schedule.
  • Students enrolled in Duval Homeroom: Students enrolled in Duval HomeRoom can pick up school meals at their school of enrollment. The student or parent/guardian will need to bring their ID. The school will determine the time and pick-up location. Note, that this must be at the student’s assigned school. This is different than the summer meals program and how meals were provided toward the end of spring. In both those instances, federal restrictions were lifted.
  • Students enrolled in Duval Virtual Instructional Academy: Students who are enrolled in Duval Virtual Instructional Academy (DVIA) are not eligible for meal service. This is not a new rule. Here is the background: School districts receive funding from the  United States Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (USDA) to support their meal programs and adhere to their rules. One of those rules is that schools must serve meals only to students who are enrolled at their school. This is why DVIA students are not eligible. Note that USDA restrictions are lifted for summer meals, and were also lifted in March, April and May. .
  • Each school will determine how meals are served: Each school is determining its procedure for serving meals (classroom, through service line, or hybrid) based on their cafeteria layouts and unique circumstances. Each school is also determining time and pick-up location for its students enrolled in Duval HomeRoom.
  • While following specific procedures for their school, each school will implement the following universal safety guidelines:
    • Face coverings: Face coverings will not be required while students are eating. However, while waiting in line to receive and pay for school meals, face coverings or face shields will be required.
    • Social distancing: Students’ seating arrangements during meal service will be arranged for social distancing to the greatest extent possible. Students will be required to maintain social distance while in line.
    • Meals in the classroom: With the enforcement of social distancing, some cafeterias may not have the capacity to serve all students during normal breakfast and lunch service. In these cases, breakfast may be served in the classroom and consumed in the classroom. Also, lunch will be obtained through the café lunch, but may be consumed in the classroom. In addition, meals may be eaten in other areas of the school such as outdoor patios (weather permitting) to enable social distancing.
    • Snack and supper service in After-School programs (if offered): Snack will be provided in a cooler or offered through the café line.  The after-school monitor will  pick up the cooler and distribute the snack to participants or the participants may obtained the snack through the café line. Supper will be pre-plated in a container and placed in a bag with the milk. One group at a time will come through the line to maintain social distancing.  Students will be required to wear a face covering or face shield while waiting in line to obtain their meal.

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