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Students to get free lunches until end of the year

MARSHALL — It came as a surprise for the Marshall School District, but an extension of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program will help local families this fall.

Marshall Public Schools learned last week that they would have the option to continue the program, which provided grab-and-go meals for children through the spring and summer.

Continuing the Food Service Program means that not only will free meals be available for kids to pick up this fall, but breakfasts and lunches served at school will be free, said Dion Caron, director of business services at MPS.

“This announcement came from the USDA and surprised both us and the Minnesota Department of Education,” Marshall Superintendent Jeremy Williams said Wednesday. “We found out about it late last week and worked with Taher (Food Service) to reconfigure our plans a bit.”

“It will be a savings for our families, and we are excited to be able to extend this program,” Williams said.

The free meals could mean a substantial cost savings for Marshall families who normally buy school meals. Caron said a typical savings would be $1.50 for each breakfast and $2.60 or $2.70 for each lunch.

Free meals will be available to anyone 18 years old or younger, Caron said. Grab-and-go bags will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Marshall High School theater entrance and the Marshall Middle School gym entrance.

“We were always going to provide meal distribution” for students on distance learning days or who are learning from home, Caron said. However, with the extension of the Summer Food Service Program, it means the grab-and-go meals will be available to all kids, not just MPS students. “This will hopefully help all community families financially that want to participate,” Caron said.

It also means school meals are now free for all MPS students this fall. For students who bring their own lunches, milk will be available at no cost.

Caron said federal funding for the free meals will only be available until Dec. 31, or maybe earlier if funding runs out. It will still be very important for families to fill out and submit applications for free and reduced-price meals, he said. Besides making sure families can still get needed assistance with school meals for the whole year, part of the school district’s funding depends on getting those applications returned.

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