Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: Roseburg Public Schools Meals for Students
Overview: Roseburg Public Schools is offering free “grab-and-go” meals for children ages 0 to 18, Monday through Friday, throughout the COVID-19 school closure dates.
Location: Roseburg, Oregon
Food policy category: Food access; food security
Program goals: To ensure that children do not go hungry while schools are closed.
How it works: Any child in any of the Roseburg public schools may receive three meals per day, five days per week, at no cost, for the rest of the academic year while schools are closed. Free grab-and-go breakfast, lunch and dinner options are available for anyone ages 0-18, throughout the end of the school year. Students and their families may pick up meals at their schools during specified times, or they may receive their meals via bus delivery. The bus delivery system allows students or their families to wait at a designated bus stop and pick up a bag containing three meals for each child in the household. Bus routes and in-school pick-up times are provided on the Roseburg Public Schools website.
Breakfast includes fruit and milk, lunch includes a fruit or vegetable and milk, and dinner is a ready-to-heat meal with a fruit or vegetable. Nutrition services staff at each school prepares the meals, which may include pre-packaged frozen foods or items made fresh on site. Lunch entrees are assembled fresh every day. The newly added dinners may consist of items such as chicken legs, chicken nuggets, or burritos, which are typically prepared fresh and then stored in a freezer until they are delivered. The frozen meals come with heating instructions, such as “This product is precooked; to consume, cook to 165. If this product is not being cooked or consumed, it must be refrigerated or discarded.”
The Oregon Department of Education funds the meals.
Students and their families are urged to follow social distancing protocols at bus stops and school pick-up sites.
Progress to date: Roseburg Public Schools have been providing meals to students since the schools closed on March 16. Bus delivery began on March 30, and dinner service was added on April 20. In the month of April, approximately 2,400 children received meals each day.
Why it is important: In Douglas County, where Roseburg is located, 21 percent of children live in poverty and 14 percent of households experience food insecurity. Nationally, 29.7 million children received free or reduced-price lunches at school during the 2018-2019 school year. Many families rely on school meals to keep their kids well-fed, and school closures have resulted in an increased need for healthy meals.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused schools around the world to close their doors unexpectedly for the remainder of the academic year, meaning that students would no longer have access to the meals they had been receiving at school. Additionally, more than 30 million Americans have filed for initial unemployment benefits since March. Many families are struggling to make ends meet and to keep their children healthy during this difficult time.
Roseburg Public Schools are showing their support to the community by providing not just breakfast and lunch, but also dinner, to all students regardless of income, and adding the convenience of delivering the meals by bus.
Program/Policy initiated: Meal service began on March 16, and dinner service was added on April 20.
Point of contact:
Kyle Micken, Nutrition Services Director, Roseburg Public Schools
Phone: (541) 440-4023
Similar practices: New York City is offering three free meals per day for all residents, but it does not include a delivery service. Several other school districts, including San Francisco, are also providing free on-site meal distribution of breakfast, lunch, and dinner to students and their parents.
Evaluation: Formal evaluation has not been conducted to date, but there is anecdotal support for the program. A ten-year-old student thought it was “awesome” that dinner would be added. Approximately 38 percent of students are taking advantage of the free meals.
- Coronavirus and Poverty: A Mother Skips Meals So Her Children Can Eat (New York Times)
- Covid-19’s Third Shock Wave: The Global Food Crisis (The Nation)
- Free School Lunch Programs Face Terrible Choice: Fight Coronavirus or Students’ Hunger (USA Today)
- What Coronavirus Means for Hungry Kids (No Kid Hungry)
- With Coronavirus Closing Schools, Here’s How You Can Help Food Insecure Children (CNN)
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- The Coronavirus has Destroyed the Job Market in Every State (NBC News)
- Dinner is Served Through Roseburg Public Schools (The News-Review)
- Douglas County, Oregon (County Health Rankings)
- Free Meals (New York City Department of Education)
- Free Meals for All New Yorkers Starting Friday; Childcare Programs Expanded (NBC New York)
- National School Lunch Program (United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service)
- Meals for Students (Roseburg Public Schools)
- Roseburg Public Schools Adds “Grab and Go” Dinners (KEZI ABC 9 News)
- Roseburg Schools Add Dinner to “Grab and Go” Meals (KQEN News Radio)
- San Francisco Students, Parents Grateful for Free Meals During COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place (ABC 7 News)
- Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)