Updated at 10:10 p.m. March 16
Iowa schools that are closing for at least the next four weeks because of the COVID-19 outbreak are going to be able to serve free meals to children. The state got a U.S. Department of Agriculture waiver so schools can serve meals like they do in summer.
In an email, Iowa Department of Education spokeswoman Staci Hupp said the state received a waiver on Sunday that allows schools to continue serving meals while they’re closed.
“This means schools will be able to activate their summer meal programs and provide meals in non-group settings through such means as drive-through pickup or grab and go,” Hupp said.
The Sioux City Community School District says there will be 16 locations around town where people can pick up free grab-and-go meals. Superintendent Paul Gausman said the school district is still working out the details, but the program will begin some time this week.
“Children ages 1 through 18 are eligible to receive these meals and these meals will not be restricted to Sioux City Community School District students only,” Gausman said. “Each child present will be able to pick up one bag each day that includes both a breakfast and a lunch.”
Gausman said the grab-and-go program will allow people to still get free meals while practicing social distancing amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“We will set up a system where the bags of food are available to be picked up,” Gausman said. “We aren’t going to have direct human-to-human contact as a part of that, we’re not going to allow anyone to stay there and eat the food.”
The USDA, which oversees the school meals program, has been working to make sure children get the food they need.