This week I hit the road and traveled across the state to sit down with our students and enjoy a hot meal during school lunch. It’s National School Lunch Week, so I toured schools from Box Elder to Vermillion.
As the top Republican on the Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations and as a member of the Education & Labor Committee, our kid’s lunches are more important to my work than you might think.
The National School Lunch Program serves nearly 30 million children every school day. Nutrition impacts so many aspects of a student’s daily life, from how engaged they are on a subject to how focused they are in the classroom. We all focus better when our stomachs aren’t growling.
Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how important school meals are to our students and their families.
School lunch became a front-facing issue at the beginning of the pandemic. With millions of children depending on school lunch for their next meal – what was going to happen now that schools were closed?
People stepped up, people volunteered, people donated.
But the federal government had to get involved too, and that’s where my job comes in. To ensure students were staying fed during the peak of the pandemic, Congress passed the CARES Act, which included flexibility for schools to continue running their school lunch program even while closed. Schools hosted drive-thru meal lines or used busses to drop meals off to homes that needed them, and packed sack lunches for kids to come pick up.
There’s a lot I took away from this week, but two things stuck out: Our kids are happy to be back in school, even with masks and distanced seating, and they love their lunch time.
I was grateful to eat lunch in person this week with students from Francis Case Elementary in Box Elder, Hill City Elementary, Jolley Elementary in Vermillion, and Washington Elementary in Huron. I’m happy to report every meal was delicious and nutritious, but I have to admit the sweet and sour chicken in Hill City was my favorite.