Walla Walla Public Schools will continue to feed youths during winter break, the district announced this week.
Pamela Milleson, WWPS director of nutrition services, said typically the district does not provide meals during the break.
“This is unique because of COVID,” Milleson said. “Because of new USDA regulations, with free meals to all kids, we can provide meals now on break days also.”
Milleson added that while USDA regulations allowed districts to use funding to provide the meals, they did not require them to do so.
However, she said that due to hardships being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision to do so was not a hard one.
“We looked at that two-week break and thought that would be a long time for families to be without that resource that we’re providing,” Milleson said.
Winter break this year is from Dec. 21 through Jan 1. Food will be provided for breakfasts and lunches for each weekday.
The USDA program is an extension to the summer lunch program the city of Walla Walla has run. It allows free meals to be provided to all children in the area, not just Walla Walla public school students.
“They don’t even have to be from right here in Walla Walla,” Milleson said. “They can be from neighboring districts.”
The district took the food program over from the city this year due to the pandemic.
When the school year started, the USDA announced the program could be extended, allowing districts to provide meals for free without students having to qualify as low-income, as previously required.
There will be some changes to the way meals are distributed over the break.
First, families must register for the meals in advance. Paper forms are available all current pickup sites. Families can also sign up online at ubne.ws/wwpslunch. Signups close Dec. 11 at 4 p.m.
Also, rather than bagged meals being handed out everyday, one box — containing 10 breakfasts and 10 lunches — will be handed out on Saturday, Dec. 19, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Support Services Building at 1174 Entley St. in Walla Walla.
Milleson said 800 boxes have already been ordered. She said currently the schools hand out between 1,100 and 1,300 lunches. She said she and her staff expect about 1,500 and 2,000 boxes to be ordered.