Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) Food and Nutrition Services has expanded its meal distribution program to include Sunday meals, meaning that the meal packs dispensed every Thursday now include 14 meals—seven breakfasts and seven lunches. Thanks to the USDA’s extension of the summer meals flexibility waiver for the entirety of the 2020-2021 school year, the free grab-and-go meals are available to all children 18 years and younger regardless of eligibility status or whether they are engaged in face-to-face learning, eLearning and even if they don’t attend a district school.
The meals, which come with reheating instructions for items needing retherming, are distributed at 25 BCPS elementary, middle and high schools with meal distribution times varying depending on the school location. In addition, select high schools are open for meal distribution every Tuesday and Thursday between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. in order to further increase access to meals.
Photo credit: Broward County Public Schools Food & Nutrition Services
Photo: Broward County’s multi-meal packs are distributed Thursdays and include 14 meals, enough for seven days of breakfasts and lunches per child.
Children or their parents can pick up the multiple meals at one time at each school’s car or bus loop to reduce risk of exposure. If the child is not present, the USDA requires parents to provide identification for their child to pick up meals, which are provided in bundles and are not available for individual meal purchase. Adults can also purchase meal bundles for $1.80 per breakfast and $2.75 per lunch.
According to a recent study of the impact of COVID-19 on school meals in large districts, BCPS went from serving 1,141,900 breakfasts and 2,581,075 lunches in October 2019 to serving only 252,728 breakfasts and 227,946 lunches in April 2020, the first full month of COVID-imposed shutdowns, when its initial response to what was then regarded as a short suspension of in-person classes was to provide grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches in separate time windows at school car/bus loops to students and family members, a program that was modified to encompass multiple meals at a time once it became clear the shutdowns would be extended indefinitely. BCPS began the 2020-2021 school year fully online before moving to a hybrid approach last October.
The district nutrition services program’s aggressive response to dealing with the meal shortfall following the initial shock allowed meal counts to increase considerably, with breakfasts doubling to 504,412 and lunches nearly tripling to 705,224 in October 2020 compared to the previous April, though those numbers were still substantially less than for pre-pandemic October 2019.
With nearly 261,000 pre-K-12th grade students and approximately 110,000 adult students in 241 district sites and 92 charter schools, BCPS is the sixth largest public school district in the country and the second largest in Florida after Miami-Dade. It recently announced that it plans to have schools open to all students next fall. During the current school year, students taking in-person classes have the option of traditional line service with physical distancing and enhanced sanitizing protocols in place or grab-and-go meals featuring familiar menu items.