Breaking News
More () »

A federal waiver saved hundreds of Guilford County Schools employees from getting laid off

The USDA announced Monday that districts may continue to serve free meals through the end of the year. This will keep nutrition staff and bus drivers employed.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County Schools families can breathe a sigh of relief, now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extended waivers granting districts flexibility in how schools distribute and pay for student meals.

The USDA announced Monday that districts may continue to operate through Dec. 31, 2020, under the summer nutrition guidelines, which will allow GCS to serve meals to all students without charge.

RELATED: List of mobile meal delivery sites for Guilford County students

This doesn't just apply to students, but all children in the county aged 0-18.

"Once we get the word back out, we hope our meal participation will go back up to where we saw it in the spring because we know how many children in Guilford County need these free meals every day," Chief Financial Officer Angie Henry said.

During a normal school year, about 75,000 meals are served daily so the district knows the need is there.

"In the spring we were serving between 38-39,000 meals per day," Henry explained. "Over the summer that dropped to about 20,000 meals per day so we’re hoping again as we get the word out to families that we do have the waiver in place that we can provide meals for all children in Guilford County."

RELATED: Guilford County Schools opening 13 learning centers for students without internet

Meals will be available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to noon at all GCS school sites. Families can visit any of the 125 district schools to pick up the meals, which include breakfast and lunch.

"We’ll serve lunch for today and breakfast for tomorrow, it'll be in the same bag we’re able to continue that as well because of the waiver we go that flexibility."

In addition to the 125 school sites for meal pickup, there are also 61 mobile sites.

RELATED: USDA extends free meals for kids through the end of December

"We're continuing with the mobile sites, we’ve identified the sites we were serving the largest number of meals so we can serve children where we saw the greatest need," Henry stated.

“This is a victory for our schools and for our families, and I am grateful to those who advocated so that GCS and other districts across the country could continue to feed children,” said Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras.

The waiver benefits employees as well, because school nutrition staff and bus drivers are needed to prepare and deliver these free meals.

"I know that we, on the leadership team, are very relieved we have time to see how participation looks before we have to make any decisions about continued employment of our school nutrition staff."

Hundreds of jobs were on the line before the waiver was extended.

"Before the waivers, we were really concerned we were going to very quickly have to make a decision based on what participation would have looked like and lay off as many as 500 of our school nutrition staff," Henry said. "As far as bus drivers are concerned we still are using bus drivers to deliver meals to our mobile sites, so that’s helping keep our bus drivers employed."

Parents can pick up these meals, a child doesn't have to be present.

Parents are still encouraged to fill out a meal benefits application at www.lunchapplication.com, in preparation for when the waivers expire at the end of December. Parents may reapply at any time during the year if their financial situation changes.

"We still want to encourage that families continue to complete meal applications on our website or paper copies through school," Henry said. "These applications will be in place when students do come back to school and we have to transition back to the National School Lunch Program."

For the latest on reopening schools, visit www.gcsnc.com/reopening

For the list of mobile meal delivery sites for Guilford County Schools students, click here

Before You Leave, Check This Out