Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) adapted to virtual learning over the past year due to COVID-19. On June 11, 2020, FUSD announced it will be participating in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. The new dinner menu is available from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Cromer Elementary, Killip Elementary, Kinsey Elementary and Thomas Elementary. Meals will also be available from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Leupp Elementary School.
According to the FUSD food services website, the program offers healthy meals every school day and now includes the addition of a dinner menu. If students qualify, they may receive free or reduced-price meals. According to the meal charge policy, FUSD’s main goal for food services is to ensure every student is given the opportunity to eat a well-balanced meal. FUSD also accommodates special dietary needs to ensure the safety and health of students.
Over the course of the 2020-21 school year, FUSD has made it a priority to offer a “Grab and Go” food service available for those aged 18 and under, even if they are not enrolled in the district.
Four elementary schools and one high school — Killip Elementary, Kinsey Elementary, Leupp Elementary, Thomas Elementary and Summit High School — are offering healthy meals for no cost every school day. According to the Arizona Daily Sun,meals are provided at Cromer Elementary, Thomas Elementary, Leupp Elementary Killip Elementary, Kinsey Elementary, Killip Elementary, Sinagua Middle School and Flagstaff High School from 7:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. The mobility of the meals allows students to receive meals even if they live farther away from the school.
Not only are meals distributed all around the Flagstaff region, but students do not have to be present if parents are picking up the provided meals. The Flagstaff Family Food Center also offers four different mobile pickups every Friday where the community receives meals for the weekend.
Killip Elementary School counselor Samantha Runger emphasized the importance of the food services available.
“Food services have always been important to our families even before the pandemic,” Runger said in an email interview. “Approximately 96% of Killip’s students qualify for free or reduced lunch, mostly free.”
Runger also said that while some students tend to bring their own lunch to school, many families rely on the food service to provide steady meals because some children are home alone while their parents work.
The distribution of boxes also permits families to see faculty and staff in a COVID-safe setting. As cars pull into the pickup zones, staff and faculty will distribute food through the windows with gloves and a mask covering.
“Many of our families feel more comfortable picking it up at our school site because we are familiar with them,” Runger said. “Many food boxes are handed out to families that way.”
Runger said she is happy dinner is now included in these meals because it is known that an individual functions better when their basic needs are met.
The FUSD food services website states in order for a student to qualify for free or reduced-price meals, students must belong to a household whose income is at or below the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines, belonging to a household that receives public assistance or if the child is homeless, migrant, runaway or foster.
FUSD director of food services Tanya Williams said in a Facebook Watch livestream with Flagstaff Resources on May 4, 2020 that serving the community has been great. Williams also touched on food insecurity that families face within the community and how these meals are a helping hand in a time of need.
“Even families who are not food insecure come to our programs, enabling us to keep our program functioning for those who may be that way,” Williams said. “As of now, FUSD has provided over 60,000 meals for the Flagstaff community.”
According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap for 2018,20,030 residents in Coconino County are impacted by food insecurity, which is the lack of nutritious food, affecting about 24% of Arizona children. According to Data USA, about one-fifth of the community in Coconino County lives below the poverty line and COVID-19 took a toll on the community's income.
With the addition of the dinner menu, FUSD expects the number of meals to rise and will continue to support the community as long as the organization can. The service is also available during summer when school is not in session. More information on the FUSD food services, times and locations are listed on the district’s website.