Students enrolled in Dickinson Public Schools can continue to receive free breakfast and lunch through the end of the school year.

The district’s lunch program is overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA.

“Like most federal programs, this has lots of layers and aspects to it, and there’s different programs that’s offered through that school lunch program, and one of them is a way for qualifying communities to provide meals to students throughout the summer,” said Assistant Superintendent Keith Harris.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“Part of the COVID relief package was to extend the summer regulations and rules that surround the school lunch program to the time period from March through the summer of last year,” Harris said. “Then, when the government wanted to give even more COVID relief, they extended that summer program through December of this year.”

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Recently, the program was extended again through the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

“Any Dickinson Public School student who would like to participate and receive a breakfast and lunch is able to do so free of charge through the rest of the school year,” Harris said.

The district has opted for a limited option, which only provides the meals to students on the days they are physically present in school.

“We are not providing meals for students if they’re not in school. There are some areas that have opted into the expanded program where they do provide it for students both in school and out of school. Logistically, we just didn’t have the capability ... to do that, so that’s why we opted into a limited program,” Harris said.

In the regular program, students would pay the full price for lunch unless they qualified for free or reduced lunch, which are based on their family’s income.

The full price for breakfast is $1.50 for a student in any grade. Lunch prices vary from $2.55 to $3.45 depending on whether the student is in elementary, middle or high school.

The difference in price comes from the difference in portion sizes, which are regulated by the federal government.

Harris said the federal assistance has been a blessing to the community’s families.

“The economic impacts of COVID have hit a lot of our families and a lot of our kids in our community pretty hard, and this has been a real blessing for families who are struggling in our community right now,” he said.