The USDA recently announced that it will extend school lunches for the summer of 2021 due to Covid-19. This past school year, the school system developed a flexible model for distributing school lunches which included in person, curbside, and home delivery. School nutritionists in Athens-Clarke County worked to ensure that every child received their lunch, even those staying at home. Check out the video to see this program in action and hear from those working in it!

 Why It’s Newsworthy: The school lunch program provides lunches through mobile, curbside, and in-person. This program aids in bringing food to a food insecure area and provides lunch to every child in Clarke county.  
Food assistants at Whitehead Elementary School work curbside to provide food for parents to pick up for their children. From left to right: Gricelda Garcia, Maria Rojas, Joanne Haynes, Maria Teresa Garcia, and Anahi Ajuilar. (Photo/Iris Hersey)

The Issue of Child Food Insecurity

The U.S. Department of Agriculture highlights that “5.3 million children lived in food-insecure households in which children, along with adults, were food insecure” in 2019. The USDA defines food insecurity as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food”. This number changed dramatically due to Covid-19.

How the School Lunch Program Helps

Athens-Clarke County schools feed children through the federal school lunch program. Though federally funded, the program is controlled locally with the Georgia Department of Education managing as an intermediary. The program follows a set of guidelines to ensure the quality of meals and how they are distributed. This program is available to all kids in Athens-Clarke County due to the Community Eligibility Provision that the school district enrolled in back in 2015. The schools and community of Athens-Clarke County first responded in March 2020. They continue to shift the model to accommodate the ever changing challenges of the pandemic.

The Limitations of the Program

There are limitations to how much the school lunch program can do to address food insecurity in Athens-Community. The school lunch program only fed 1,300,000 this current school year, a sharp drop from the 3,132,000 meals served in the 2019 to 2020 school year. This is largely due to children staying home and not attending school in person.

Communication between the school system and parents provides another limitation. The school system must provide clear and timely communication and parents must know where to find the information related to the school lunch program.


If you would like to ensure that your child gets their lunch from the school lunch program, there are steps you can take. You can call the school lunch hotline at 706-354-1138 or click here to learn more.

Iris Hersey is a senior majoring in journalism and international affairs with a minor in public policy and administration in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.



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