Free Food Frenzy

School lunch supervisor Molly Ryan talks to The Post about the change in policy and the reason behind this sudden good news


Seniors Peyton Dueling, Ellie Hurley, and Anna Asher enjoy their free Maroon Meal.

Caroline Schultz, Staff Writer

2020 has been a year of anything but normal, why wouldn’t we have free school lunch?


“What the United States Department of Agriculture, who oversees child nutrition in schools, decided because of schools in the pandemic year, they’re either hybrid or they are all at home, was to extend the summer feeding program,” Ryan said.


COVID-19 has brought challenges to schools all across the country, and school lunch has been a constant area of concern. Luckily for some schools like Dowling, there are benefits to school during a pandemic. 


“There is a thing that happens every summer called Summer Food Service program, and Dowling usually doesn’t participate. The reason being is because so many of you do not live in West Des Moines by Dowling, Dowling kids live all over, so it’s a lot easier to say, someone out in Altoona, to go the one provided by Southeast Polk,” Ryan said.


If the quick change in policy came as a surprise to you, you are not alone. Dowling received notice of this new opportunity just last month.  


“September 4th we got the first notice on it. They said any school could sign up, even if you’ve never done it before. So we just thought because kids are coming and going we can start a grab and go program,” Ryan said. 


Online and hybrid learners: you are not out of luck! Grab and go lunches and breakfasts are available for pick up, simply sign up in OnCampus.


“You pick those up and they are free on the days you are not here, or for the 100% online learners they can come and pick up school lunch and breakfast as well,” Ryan said.


With something as good as free food, there are always discrepancies. Anything outside of the standard “Maroon Meal” is extra, and free meals will not be here forever. 


“When we transition back, either December 31st or when the money runs out, we’ll transition back to the National School Lunch Program, so if you have been coming every day, nothing changes except now you have to pay for it,” Ryan said.


Most importantly, whether it is swinging by Dowling to pick up breakfast or making your way through the lunch line, make sure to show your appreciation to the school lunch staff, who have worked tirelessly to ensure students get the proper nourishment despite these abnormal times.