By Jessica Mathews /

Fowlerville Community Schools won't be participating in the extension of a federal summer lunch program due to a number of variables.

Some concerns were raised by parents about the district’s lack of participation in the USDA extension of federal waivers allowing flexibility in child nutrition programs to continue feeding Michigan children during the coronavirus pandemic. Superintendent Wayne Roedel said there are quite a few unknowns still out there. He noted the district has until October 15th to decide if it wants to participate in the summer extension but noted there are enough questions on their end to not join so quickly. Roedel said they look at all federal programs carefully and the reality is that sometimes the headline sounds really good and inviting but in the long run ends up costing the district either financially or it harms the very families the program is intended to help.

As an example, he said that meals served in the summer lunch program do not count toward the district's commodity entitlement reimbursement for the following year. "What that means to the District is we stand to lose up to $80,000 in commodity reimbursement during the 2021-2022 school year depending on how long the summer lunch program is funded." He added that during the extended summer lunch program, all families would qualify for free meals, but parents are still required to fill out an application so that they have an income approved free or reduced price status once this program ends. "At the current time, there is no grace period for parents to turn in an application if and when the summer lunch program ends. Without a grace period to have parents file an application, many of our parents who qualify for free and/or reduced meals may have to pay full price until they submit an application and it goes through the approval process."

Roedel noted the district currently partners through Gleaners Community Food Bank to provide supplemental groceries. Roedel says during the shutdown and summer months, Gleaners collected the summer lunch program reimbursement as they distributed free groceries to families in need twice per month. Moving forward, the district is again partnering with Gleaners to distribute groceries once per month. Gleaners will receive reimbursement through the summer lunch program for days the district is not serving meals. Roedel said they believe those groceries are a better supplement to their families in need.

Based on information from the Michigan Department of Education, Roedel says program runs through the end of December but could end at any time prior in the event that the Federal funds for the program run out sooner. "If the program ends sooner than expected, as is our experience with other Federal programs during the pandemic, it will create confusion as to why parents need to apply for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs."