On August 31, 2020, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Sonny Perdue, announced the extension of several waivers that allows the Houston County School Nutrition Program to provide free meals for all children through December 31, 2020. Frequently asked questions and answers follow.
Q. Who may receive free meals?
A. Any child ages 18 and under may receive free meals. Breakfasts and lunches will be provided free of charge to all students enrolled in the Houston County School District, to include Houston Virtual students. In addition, the USDA expanded this benefit for all children ages 18 and under. Any child, whether enrolled in the district, homeschooled, or too young to be enrolled in school, may receive meals at no charge.
Q. What meals will be provided?
A. Children will be offered breakfasts and lunches at no cost.
Q. When does this take effect?
A. Per state guidance, the free meals went into effect on September 1, 2020.
Q. I paid for school meals in September. Will I be reimbursed?
A. Yes, student meals which were paid for September 1-4 will be issued credits to their student meal accounts. These adjustments are entered manually, so please be patient and allow time to enter the credits. Per state guidance, charges incurred in August are not eligible to be refunded.
Q. What if I want a refund?
A. All of the meal credits will go straight to student accounts. In order to be able to see your student’s account, please set up a free MySchoolBucks account at www.myschoolbucks.com. This enables you to monitor their accounts at any time. You are welcome to leave those funds on the account in order for your student to purchase snacks or to cover meals once the waivers expire as of January 1, 2021. To receive a refund under $5.00, your school’s nutrition manager can assist you. Refunds over $5.00 will be handled at the central office.
Q: For students attending school in-person, are extra snacks and food covered under the free meals?
A: Supplemental sale items such as chips, cookies, and ice cream are separate snack items and not part of the components for a USDA reimbursable meal. Therefore, these items are an additional cost and not covered under the free meal waiver. However, funds may be placed on a student's account by visiting MySchoolBucks.com or page for at the register.
Information for Houston Virtual students and Children Not Enrolled in Houston County Schools
Q. How may Houston Virtual students receive the free meals? What about children who are not enrolled in Houston County schools?
A. Houston Virtual students and children not enrolled in Houston County schools may pick up meals on Wednesdays from our pick up locations across the county. These sites include all of our middle and high schools: Bonaire Middle, Feagin Mill Middle, Houston County High, Huntington Middle, Mossy Creek Middle, Northside High, Northside Middle, Perry High, Perry Middle, Thomson Middle, Veterans High, Warner Robins High, and Warner Robins Middle.
Q. How many meals will a child receive if using the pickup method?
A. For safety and convenience, children will receive one week’s worth of meals at one time. Each child will receive 10 meals - five breakfasts and five lunches - during the weekly meal distribution.
Q. What day may I pick up meals for my children?
A. Currently, the meal pick-up day for each site is Wednesday.
Q. What time should I pick up meals?
A. Our school nutrition employees will serve meals between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. Please arrive no later than a few minutes before 10:00 a.m. to ensure our employees will finish on time to serve meals to students inside the building in a timely manner.
Q. Do I need to RSVP if I plan to pick up meals?
A. At this time, no reservations are required.
Q. What types of food will be provided in the meal packs with pick up service?
A. Breakfasts may consist of granola bars, yogurts, or breakfast pastries. Lunches may include items such as individual pizzas, deli sandwiches, chicken nuggets, or hamburgers. Each meal pack will contain several fruit and vegetable options, as well as juice and milk. Prepared items may be frozen, but all will be fully cooked and reheating instructions will be provided.
Q. Must children be in the car when the parent/guardian picks up meals?
A. At this time, our district has been granted permission for meals to be picked up without requiring children to be present.
Q. If I have additional questions, who do I contact?
A. If you have further questions, please contact the School Nutrition Area Manager, April Bohannon, at April.Bohannon@hcbe.net.
Q. My kids are attending class in person. Do I need to pick up meals on Wednesdays so they can receive free meals?
A. No, if your students attend classes in a school building, you do not need to come through a pick up line to get their meals. They will receive their breakfasts and lunches each day at no charge. However, if you have other children who are too young to be enrolled or are homeschooled, you may choose to drive through one of our pick up sites and receive meals for those other children. For example: A household with 3 children, ages 3, 5, and 8 would have two children attending classes at an elementary school, but could come through the pick up line to get a meal pack for the 3 year old that is not yet in school
Q. Where can I find reheating instructions for the items that are in my meal pack?
A. Meal packs may include frozen items that require reheating before enjoying. Please see our website, www.hcbe.net/schoolnutrition, and click on Meal Pick Up Item Reheating Instructions. Please note that oven reheating is usually recommended for best quality, but we have provided microwave instructions as well.