Summer Lunch program paused for low attendance


Delaware City Schools has paused the Summer Lunch Program this year because of dwindling numbers and to reevaluate the best way to serve meals to students.

The program traditionally begins the first week of summer and involves free meals at Woodward Elementary for students in the district. The meals were prepared by food services staff and were eaten on-site by participants.

This year the program was paused, according to Shelly Thieret, the district’s food services director. Thieret said the numbers in the program had been “on the decline” for the past two years and said there were some days that had fewer than 10 participants. Thieret said that with the State’s summer Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program using Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) to provide additional funds directly to families for summer meals, the district expected even less participation this year.

Thieret said the program averaged 92 meals a day in 2019; 205 in 2020; 416 in 2021; 90 in 2022 and just 46 in 2023. Thieret added those numbers “include community participation as well as the meals that were provided to our internal summer programs through the summer lunch program.”

Thieret said the program relied on U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service meal reimbursements to fund to the program and said the program was self-sufficient when participation was near or above 100 meals a day and said the district was operating the program at a deficit to provide the program as the numbers declined.

“The decision was made to take a year break while we explore potential ways to make the meals more accessible throughout the community rather than at one site only,” Thieret said. “It is our hope to re-apply for funding under expanded outreach guidelines for next year if our district qualifies. The district is working with any families in need to ensure they have access to summer food through community or district resources.”

Thieret said the current funding requires the district to only serve meals at Woodward and to require that they be eaten on site, something the district may change in the future.

“Many people relayed to us that they do not want to stay and eat, they prefer to grab and go which is not allowed under our current license,” Thieret said. “We are exploring our ability to serve grab and go meals at various community locations versus one site as we look ahead to next year.”

In the meantime, Thieret said the district has been referring families to the State’s EBT program and directing certain families to various community organizations including Andrew’s House, Salvation Army, Job and Family Services, People In Need, United Way Pacer Pantry, LSS Delaware County Food Pantry and other local churches that provide meals and assistance.

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903.

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