Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — Fairfield Community School District’s summer lunch program is in its second year of sending bagged lunches home with kids instead of having them meet in a cafeteria.
The school began serving bagged lunches in the spring of 2020 and continued the practice in the summer and throughout the school year. Food services Director Stephanie Hawkins remembers the first day the district had to make bagged lunches for the students back in March 2020.
“It was crazy,” Hawkins said. “Today, the process is more streamlined, and the cooks are absolute pros at this. They can bag food faster than anything.”
In the pre-pandemic era, the district served summer lunches five days a week at a variety of locations including the Fairfield Middle School where the food was prepared. Once the pandemic hit, the district altered its summer lunch program so that a child would get a bag every Monday containing food for the whole week, five breakfasts and five lunches.
The district’s summer lunch program began June 1 and will continue through Aug. 2. Thus far, the number of students using it has been markedly lower than last year. Hawkins said the program averaged about 430 students per week in 2020, and on Monday the cooks prepared meals for 330 pupils.
“It could be that families are back on their feet, that they don’t have the need like they did during COVID,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said she wants families in the county to know that if they participate in the program, they will not be taking food from the mouth of another child, a common misconception.
“We are reimbursed for every single meal that is served, so the more we serve, the better it is for our program,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said that even though the federal government through the United States Department of Agriculture paid for all the meals this past school year and will do so again for the 2021-22 school year, Fairfield schools’ meal account has suffered from a drop in participation caused by the pandemic.
Hawkins said she expects that to be short-lived and hopes the program’s balance sheet will improve once students return to normal classes in the fall.
Meals are distributed every Monday in the summer from 4:40 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at Fairfield Middle School. Visit the school’s website at fairfieldsfuture.org to sign up for the free program.