Maui News

USDA Extends Funding to June 2021 for Free Student Grab and Go Meals

December 14, 2020, 10:45 AM HST
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Grab and Go meals extended until June 2021 for students in Hawaiʻi. Photo Courtesy: Hawaiʻi Department of Education

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will extend funding for free student meals at public schools through June 30, 2021.

Hawaiʻi First lady Dawn Amano-Ige is one of 18 first ladies and first gentlemen who sent a letter to the USDA and Congressional leadership, urging the continuation of fully funded child nutrition programs throughout the entire 2020-21 school year. The bipartisan effort helped pave the way for the extension of the free student meals program.

“This program supports our effort to serve nutritious meals to public school children who may not have access to balanced meals outside of school,” Amano-Ige said. “Many families have lost jobs or experienced a decrease an employment, so school meals are more important now than ever.”

The USDA’s funding allows the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education to provide free student meals through the Grab and Go program at participating public schools statewide. In October 2020, the Grab and Go program served more than 700,000 free breakfast and lunch meals to all students, regardless if they attend public or private schools.

In a news release, two working mothers express their gratitude for the program.

“The Grab and Go free meals program helps me tremendously because it is nearly impossible to cook for and then feed my youngest son during his lunch hour since I often sit with him during his online learning,” said Kelly Sugano, a mother of two.

Sugano owns a wedding planning business that has been severely impacted by the pandemic. She picks up free meals for her children almost every day to save both time and money.

Bernina Valdez, a working mom from Wahiawa, picks up meals daily from Wahiawa Elementary School.

“The drive-up line moves quickly because there are about four to five school staff members helping and they are always wearing their masks, so that makes me feel even better,” Valdez said. “I’m very appreciative of the service being provided free of charge and for the convenience it provides me as I am constantly trying to juggle my work schedule with my kids’ schedules.”

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