THROOP, Pa. — School officials around northeastern and central Pennsylvania have handed out hundreds of thousands of free meals during this health crisis.
They say they are grateful for an extension from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will allow those free meals to continue through June 30.
“We are 100 percent free breakfast and free lunch, and right now, because of the extension and the waivers that we’ve been provided, that all districts has been provided really, that extends to anyone under the age of 18," said Hazleton Area Superintendent Brian Uplinger.
As students learn from home, in many cases, they may not have access to those school meals, so many districts have had regular food handouts outside school buildings.
With an uncertain economy and more people unemployed, school leaders said more families may be having trouble getting food to the table.
“It’s absolutely been necessary for us. In the district, we have a little bit over 50 percent of our population is considered economically disadvantaged. Proper nourishment increases Academic performance, decreases absenteeism as well as absenteeism," said Patrick Sheehan, superintendent of Mid Valley schools.
Those school leaders said the longer this pandemic continues, the more the need grows.
It is concerning, but they said they are glad to have the government's help.
“With our numbers, the way they are and adding the pandemic on top of that, food insecurity is such a huge issue right now and for the USDA to be able to come forward with that and allow us to be able to provide meals to all of our community members has been a very big bonus for us," said Sheehan.
“It’s very needed in this school district or any school district, especially during this pandemic. Everybody needs to eat," added Uplinger.