Nassau County School District gears up to feed students, free lunches for all students

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. — Cafeteria staff at Nassau County Schools were busy at work preparing for Tuesday when students return to school.

This year the free meal plan has been extended.

Action News Jax’s Alicia Tarancon shows us how it’ll help to benefit families who are still feeling the effects of the pandemic.

Feeding nearly 12,000 students every day in Nassau County isn’t an easy job.

“We don’t get a rest, we don’t get a break. We feed kids all year long in Nassau County and especially last year with COVID and the craziness in our country,” said Lauren Jones, director of food and nutrition services for Nassau County Schools.

She took us through a tour of the Wildlight Elementary School cafeteria in Yulee – one of the 16 schools in the district.

Last year the USDA provided millions of meals to students whose families were impacted by the pandemic.

Earlier this year the USDA announced that it was extending its free meal program into the new school year to provide healthy and nutritious meals to kids.

“So that really takes away any stigma related to school meals. It allows us to serve meals quicker and to get kids fed especially in the morning time.”

Free meals are available to all students.

Last year Nassau County served 6,000 meals during lunch and 3,000 meals during breakfast each day.

The district brought back safety protocols to protect both students and staff.

“We are doing everything from extra cleaning and sanitizing. We have masks and face shields for all of our employees especially in places where they are not able to social distance from the students,” she said.

Breakfast carts will be set up in the morning for quick grab-and-go food, so students don’t crowd the cafeteria.

Jones said for growing kids breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.

“Research is so strong to support how breakfast can influence the concentration and memory and attention spans of students and can really allow them to be properly prepared for that learning,” Jones said.