Humble ISD, along with many other districts throughout the United States, had been serving discounted and free meals to students that qualified until the coronavirus hit the United States.
The number of students in need has since drastically increased due to the pandemic, and now, almost 6,500 breakfasts and 17,000 lunches are being served by Humble ISD Child Nutrition services daily.
Brian Achilles, Humble ISD director of Child Nutrition, has been the director for a little over four months after serving in other districts in Texas, Arizona, California, Colorado and Nevada. Achilles is a Kingwood alumnus, having attended Deerwood Elementary, Riverwood Middle and Kingwood High School.
“As a graduate of Humble ISD, I am excited to be back in a district that gave me the foundation I needed to excel at Cornell University,” Achilles said. “The Child Nutrition team has worked tirelessly since the onset of the pandemic in March to try and provide as many meals as possible to our students and the community. They are normally the first ones through the doors in the morning and don’t stop moving until every last person is served.”
Every person enrolled in Humble ISD is eligible to be served face to face, and every person in the community aged 1-18 is eligible for the free meals program through curbside pickup. No matter the schooling situation, virtual or in person, there is a way for students to receive their free meal.
The meals are funded by the USDA, which provides funding to the TDA who then provides the funds to Humble ISD based on how many free breakfasts and
free lunches are provided each month. All meals given out must meet the guidelines set by the USDA and TDA; that is, they must include a meat or meat alternate, grains, fruit, vegetable and milk.
Face-to-face learners typically go through lunch lines in the cafeteria, picking out what they’d like for their meal. Virtual students must go through the curbside pickup, receiving two breakfasts and two lunches on Mondays and three of each on Wednesdays.
The idea of a free meals program is not a new one.
“The National School Lunch Act was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1946 after an investigation found that the poor health of men rejected for the World War II draft was associated with poor nutrition in their childhood,” Achilles said. “This act still holds many of the same fundamentals that you see in today’s program. The goal was to provide nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free meals to children each school day. As far as the decision around COVID-19 to allow free meals to every student and child 18 years of age and younger, it was made by the USDA and supported by the TDA.”
The USDA oversees the program nationally, but the TDA oversees it from the state level. For Humble ISD, the Child Nutrition Department makes sure that the program follows all local, state and federal regulations.
Districts throughout the United States have similar programs, especially those which are completely virtual. Meals are being distributed in several ways. There’s the traditional cafeteria, the curbside pickup, grab-and-go carts, and at Lakeland Elementary and North Belt Elementary, the administration has started Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) where meals are delivered to classes each morning and students eat at their desks.
Curbside meals are available at Foster Elementary, Park Lakes Elementary, Ridge Creek Elementary, Timberwood Middle School, Atascocita High School, Humble High School and Kingwood Park High School. As of now, the FDA has authorized free meals to continue through June 30.
“I would like to see free meals for all students continue even after that point as it is important that all children have access to a meal, but we will have to wait to see what Congress and the USDA decide to do,” Achilles said. “I am excited to work with this team and to implement a variety of new programs (food trucks, coffee shops, etc.) and new menu items (sushi, made-to-order stations, etc.) so that the students of Humble ISD have the best possible food and experience.”