DC government to offer free meals to local students

Julia Weinrod

The DC government has created a comprehensive meal service program for all residents under the age of 18, throughout the duration of the 2020-2021 school year.

Every child may receive free packed breakfast and lunch meals to take home every weekday until December 31, when it will likely be extended into next year. Meals can be obtained at Wilson and other schools and public centers, such as Marie Reed Elementary School, Hardy Middle School, and Ron Brown High School.

No proof of age or residency is required in order to encourage program participation by students in need. Additionally, kids do not have to be DCPS students to participate.

Before D.C. schools closed in March, free breakfast and after school snacks were provided for all students at every DCPS school. These programs existed to feed students with food insecurity, as well as to encourage attendance. 

The breakfasts being offered include cereal, bagels, or muffins, while the lunches include fruit, milk, vegetables, meat, or salads. The prepackaged breakfasts and lunches come together and students can take up to three meals per day. There is at least one feeding site in every ward, mainly in schools or recreation centers. 

Norma Johnson, a server at the Wilson feeding site, said that the program will likely be extended until all schools are allowing students to attend fully in person. She encourages everyone to take food, and to bring their friends as well. Wilson students’ favorite meals include the SunButter and jelly sandwiches and chicken salad wraps, which she said were also popular in the Wilson cafeteria when school was in-person. Her mission is to “encourage kids to come back the next day and let them know that they can have three meals per day.” 

Johnson believes that the provided meals assist with overall student wellness and academics. Feeding America supports her claim that “Research demonstrates that children from families who are not sure where their next meal may come from are more likely to have lower math scores and repeat a grade, among other challenges.” Previous and current DC government programs hope to curtail the number of hungry children in DC based on the research that shows students who have food security do better in school.