Episode Seven: Student Nutrition
You voiced your questions and concerns about the ASD School Start 2020 plan, and the District heard. Starting this week, ASD will air a twice weekly, pre-recorded Q&A session with a variety of ASD and community member hosts and guests who will take a deep dive into the details of what school will look like this fall. Videos will post by the end of day every Tuesday and Thursday leading up to the start of the school year. Topics will dig into everything from teacher tricks to encourage social distancing among young students (airplane arms!)? to how will my senior be best prepared for post-graduation life during a pandemic?
Send us your questions here! The District wants to hear your thoughts and comments to be considered for inclusion in the interview.
•••Correction•••Please note at 9:08 in the video it is says families who participated in the free and reduced meals program during the 2019 to 2020 school year are able to participate through the end of October 2020. The correct date is through October 1, 2020. Families are encouraged to apply now so their application does not lapse.
Lisa Miller - Thanks for tuning into Airplane Arms: Navigating Back to School. I'm Lisa Miller with the Anchorage school district. And today we're going to talk about student nutrition and the program when school starts in the fall. I'm joined today with Andy Mergens, our senior director of student nutrition. Welcome Andy.
Andy Megens - Great, thanks.
Lisa Miller - And thanks for being here.
Andy Mergens- Sure.
Lisa Miller - So yeah, if you want to just kind of walk us through, get us started by telling us what will the student nutrition program look like when school starts next week?
Andy Mergens - Sure, so obviously ASD has made the decision to start school virtually.Bearing in mind, we understand that there's a lot of families that depend on the school district to meet a lot of their food security needs. So the district will still be serving meals for students during the school week. So Monday through Friday. They'll have both a breakfast and lunch that's available.
Lisa Miller - Okay.
Andy Mergens - So that will start actually, what's going to be a little bit different this school year, as opposed to the spring and the summer is we're going to break it up. It won't be every day, we'll provide lunches and breakfast two days a week, as opposed to every day. It's only Monday through Friday, we were not authorized to serve weekend meals under the new program.
Lisa Miller - Okay.
Andy Mergens - And we'll go through kind of some of the other questions here, but generally speaking, what our plan is, is there gonna be 14 locations spread across the city of Anchorage, it would include Girdwood and Eagle River.
Lisa Miller - Mm hmm.
Andy Mergens - Those sites, depending on which specific location it is and which school's they service and we'll publish a list of what those hub sites are and what the service, the locations that they'll serve, those 14 sites will provide pick up locations at all 14
Lisa Miller - Okay.
Andy Mergens - And eight of those 14 will have some delivery service available to a list of schools, again, that we'll publish that will be available on the website.
Lisa Miller - So 14 sites where you can actually go to pick up a meal, and then there's a larger list of schools where if you attend school there, you're eligible to be sign up for the mobile-
Andy Mergens - Correct, for the distribution by bus route.
Lisa Miller - Okay.
Andy Mergens - And the question may be asked, why do we have to do it this way as opposed to the way we were doing it during the spring and summer.
Lisa Miller - In the springtime, it was like kind of a free for all, we had, you know, not, not a free for, but, anyone can come and get a first meal.
Andy Mergens - It was free issue. It was, what we were able to do was apply what the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls the Summer Food Service Plug Plan. Unfortunately, we're not authorized to use that plan during the regular school year. We have to fall back to the National School Lunch Program, which is the normal way that we feed kids during the regular school year. Because we have to fall under that program, things have changed a little bit. And the two biggest differences between what we were able to do in the spring and summer and what we'll have to do in the coming fall here when school starts next week is we have to limit that, that offering, that meal service to A, students who are enrolled in ASD and B, we have to document that it's actually attributed to an ASD student. So we have to capture their student account. So that's the biggest difference. And the way we're gonna have to do that this year is we're gonna have to ask parents to sign up ahead of time to basically preorder if they want their children to receive meals going into the school year.
Lisa Miller - And where should families go to sign up for that?
Andy Mergens - So we'll publish it, we'll put up a page on the district's website, that'll show, it'll give you two, it's gonna look kind of two ways. So, the first step is that what every parent is going to have to do if they desire to have meals for their children, they're going to have to opt in. They're going to have to fill out the form or go through the process that requests the meals. Now, like I said, eight of the 14 distribution sites will have some bus service that's gonna provide delivery. At those sites, at those hub sites and those schools that fall under those hub sites, if parents want to have their meals delivered by the bus route, then they'll take the additional step of filling out the bus request form. And those two forms, once you do both of them, we'll get you on the bus delivery route.
Lisa Miller - So one step if you're gonna pick up at the hub, two steps if you want delivery.
Andy Mergens - Correct. And everybody has to fill out the preorder form. We've got to have that done because that's the only way that we can account back to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that says we're doing it the way they want us to do it.
Lisa Miller - Got it. And then as far as, you know, parents might be wondering, is my school eligible. So can you kind of give me a better understanding of what all the schools are participating?
Andy Mergens - Right so not all ASD schools participate in the National School Lunch program. Again, because of the guidelines that the federal government has given us, we can only provide the meals to students and families who are in those schools that participate in the National School Lunch program. So essentially if your school had a lunch or a breakfast program last year, then you're covered. If your school did not have a breakfast program or a lunch program last year, then unfortunately you don't, because we have no way to track it.
Lisa Miller - And so what are some, are those, like the charter schools or?
Andy mergens - A lot of charter schools fall into that realm. There are a couple of other high schools and some one offs here and there that for whatever reason, didn't have a lunch or a breakfast program. And unfortunately those won't be available.
Lisa Miller - And if parents aren't sure, I know we have a helpline, it's 742HELP that families can call there to see, so.
Andy Mergens - Right, right. But generally speaking, it's mostly charter schools that don't have a program. And there's a couple of the more specialty high schools that didn't as well.
Lisa Miller - Question about the, you said it's gonna be distributed twice a week. So what days specifically and what times?
Andy Mergens - Right, so unlike we did in the spring, we learned some lessons kind of the hard way. We've decided to limit it to two days worth of delivery. So Mondays and Wednesdays will be the delivery days and that's for pickup or if you elect to have a bus and you're eligible in their correct areas. So the meal distribution will happen on Mondays and Wednesdays. And the distribution times will be from 10 to two. So you can go anytime between 10 and two to any of the 14 schools that will display on the website.
Lisa Miller - And then on Monday, how many meals can families expect to receive and on Wednesdays?
Andy Mergens - Monday you'll get a meal, at each instance, you're gonna get a breakfast and a lunch. So on Monday you will get four meals total. You'll get two breakfasts and two lunches. And that counts for Tuesday breakfast and lunch and Wednesday breakfast and lunch. And then on Wednesday, the distribution is for Thursday, Friday, and the following Monday.
Lisa Miller - Okay. So it's five days total?
Andy Mergens - Five days total.
Lisa Miller - And then it's distributed twice a week on Monday and Wednesday?
Andy Mergens - Correct.
Lisa Miller - Okay.
Andy mergens - From between 10 and two.
Lisa Miller - Thank you.
Andy mergens - And then the meals are very similar to what we were doing in the springtime where it's take and bake.
Lisa Miller - Right, okay.
Andy Mergens - So the breakfast will be a cold breakfast, cereal, milk, fruits. There'll be a couple of other things that we have to have in there in order to meet the nutritional requirements that the U.S. government requires. And then the lunches are gonna be, like I said, take and bake. So, whatever the entree is, it'll come in an oven safe, microwave safe plastic dish that you can put in. There'll be instructions on how to warm it up. And then there'll be other things that are, that you don't have to heat up like fruit or raw vegetables and then milk.
Lisa Miller - Perfect. And then what are families who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals need to know?
Andy Mergens - Sure, so if your school, I'll back up your question just a little bit. So, if your school is what we call a community eligibility provision school or CEP, that's where every kid, regardless of economic need eats for free, and there are 35 of those across the district, and we'll put that list up on the website as well. So those families don't need to worry about anything, their status as a CEP school continues. There's no paperwork that they have to do. There's no payment that they have to, that they have to take. We're still gonna ask for their account number, but there won't be any charges. They won't incur any debt or anything like that. For those families that are not in CEP schools and if they qualify, if they meet the qualification requirements for free or reduced-price meal, those conditions will still apply. So the free and reduced application that they did for last year is still valid through the end of October. And they'll get a reminder to please renew their status. And again, if they're eligible, they'll be renewed, assuming that they meet the qualifications. And once that's done, then they'll go through that process and they won't be charged for them either or they'll be charged the reduced price.
Lisa Miller - So, it's not one time, every year, you have to go back and reapply it.
Andy Mergens - Yeah, you got to renew every year.
Lisa Miller - Okay.
Andy Mergens - And for parents who haven't, if they have a new child in the district, for example, if this is the, they got a kid that's going into preschool or kindergarten, and they've never applied for free and reduced before, 'cause this is the first time, then they'll have to make the application as well. And the website has all those, the requirements and the how to, and we'll pass out flyers on how to do that too.
Lisa Miller - Are there any deadlines for any of the registration or enrollment dates?
Andy Mergens - Not specifically, but we do have to have about a week's worth of processing time. So if you were to sign up, if you were to submit the paperwork to get meals issued to you, it's gonna take about a week before the next round, before everything is prepped to get in there. Now we can do kind of an emergency issue, I guess, for lack of a better definition, that if you show up at a feeding site, one of the sites, the 14, then we can help you out. We'll walk you through the process to preorder. Unfortunately, for a number of concerns, logistically and staffing and other things like that, I can't do that on the bus routes.
Lisa Miller - Okay. So really now is the time for families to get online.
Andy Mergens - Yup.
Lisa Miller -It's ASDK12.org/studentnutrition.
Andy Mergens - Correct.
Lisa Miller - And all this information will be on there, on registering, and if you're eligible for the free or reduced meals and then all the list of schools.
Andy Mergens - Yep.
Lisa Miller - Anything else that you wanted to add in, Andy?
Andy Mergens - Nope. I think that should be, it'll be a fairly simple process. Once the sites are up on the district webpage and it should be easy to walk you through. And if you have any questions, feel free to call the student nutrition admin department and they can walk you through it. Or if you show up at one of the 14 sites, the staff there can help you out as well.
Lisa Miller - And for bus route information, will that be available on the website as well? Or where can people expect to find that?
Andy Mergens - Yeah, bus routes will be published.
Lisa Miller - Perfect. All right, Andy, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for being here.
Andy Mergens - Any time, yep.
Lisa Miller - And thanks everyone for tuning in. Again, that website to go to for all these great pieces of information is ASDK12.org/studentnutrition. Thank you.
Andy Mergens - Thanks.