MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - National School Lunch week shines the spotlight on the programs and nutritious food that’s served up every day all year long at schools across the country.
“We have the opportunity in the state of Alabama to reach approximately three quarters of a million children on a daily basis for meals,” said June Barrett, Alabama Child Nutrition Program Coordinator for the state Department of Education. Nationally, the School Lunch Program serves nearly 30 million students every school day.
“If a child is hungry, they cannot learn. And I think that that’s probably the biggest message that we need to provide to parents and to the community in general,” Barrett explains about the importance of the School Lunch Program. “Because if a child did not come to school, having eaten breakfast, did not have an opportunity to eat lunch, then they would not be able to sit in the chairs and learn from the teachers or listen to what the teachers are trying to present to them.”
The coronavirus pandemic has added some major challenges to the mission of making sure every child is fed.
“Some of the challenges our local Child Nutrition directors face were actually making contact with the children once the schools were released in March,” Barrett said. “We did provide meals, we had curbside pickup. We thought out of the box as much as you could possibly think out of the box and provide meals to children. And it’s been very, very valuable. We’ve partnered also with our Department of Transportation, and meals were actually delivered by bus drivers through certain communities. We’ve had all sorts of opportunities to encourage children to dine with us. We have the fresh fruits and vegetable program and USDA allowed us to extend that to the to the children who were at home learning during virtual learning processes. So we’ve really tried as diligently and served as many children as we could serve meals and food while they were away from the school grounds."
The theme for this year’s National School Lunch week is “Now Playing” and it’s “centered around Hollywood themed processes,” Barrett explained. “So anything that could be done on a movie theater basis, fun and having tickets to go through lunch line, you know, go through the meal process or special things that could connect. Now Playing in the theater role with the National School Lunch Program would just be something that would add to the perspective of receiving a meal and having fun, and that’s what National School Lunch week is, just really all centered around having fun with children.”