Photo Caption: PSRC School Nutrition staff members pictured were all smiles as they stood with Long Branch Elementary School Principal David Oxendine, right, in the school’s cafeteria on the first day of school. School Nutrition staff have continued to serve meals to children despite challenges brought on by the pandemic and will continue to do so.
LUMBERTON — Public Schools of Robeson County School Nutrition Services began operations normally through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program even though services have been affected by the loss of United States Department of Agriculture waivers put in place earlier in the pandemic.
Students in the district will still receive free breakfast and lunch through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program under the CEP (Community Eligibility Provision).
The Community Eligibility Provision has helped mitigate the impact of the loss of the waivers. Districts that participate in the CEP see increased participation to ensure all children have access to the healthy school meals they need to grow and thrive.
“The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a non-pricing meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas,” according to the USDA’s website.
Robeson County meal service also began with the offer vs. serve method. Students are offered five components daily (milk, meat/meat alternate, grain, fruit, and vegetable) they are required to choose three components for the meal to be complete. Although three components make the meal complete, students are allowed to have all of the items offered if they choose.
Throughout the pandemic, waivers previously in place allowed districts to operate the (Seamless Summer Option/Summer Food Service Program) programs. The Robeson County School Nutrition Services then operated under the following waivers: Parent / Guardians to pick-up meals, Offer versus Serve Flexibility, Non-Congregate Feeding, Meal time Flexibility and Meal Pattern Flexibility.
This allowed healthy meals to all children aged 1-18 at no cost. With the loss of the USDA waivers, School Nutrition Services’ outreach in the community has been affected by requiring the School Nutrition Service meals to be consumed on sites. Parents also will not be allowed to pick up meals.
Though operations have been affected during the pandemic, the Public Schools of Robeson County is committed to its mission to serve students each day in classrooms and cafeterias, according to Charlene Locklear, PSRC School Nutrition director.
“We are committed to providing students healthy and nutritious meals daily,” Locklear said.
PSRC School Nutrition Services also provide meals at a cost for Old Main STREAM Academy and Communities In Schools Academy. Prior to the expiration of USDA waivers, the school district served those schools free meals.
As normal procedures resumed for School Nutrition in the district, the cost was again put in place for the charter schools. The charter schools must pay because they are not a part of the district’s Local Education Agency. Instead, the schools are considered separate Local Education Agencies by the state.
For more information about the National School Lunch Program or Community Eligibility Provision, visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp.