When the United States Department of Agriculture approved the temporary waiver that allowed school districts to provide free meals for the upcoming school year, Copperas Cove ISD Director of Child Nutrition Melissa Bryan applied immediately.

“I felt that it was vital for our community and our district opt in and utilize the waiver. Many districts in Texas decided not to opt into the waiver because they were concerned of the ‘limited’ time that students might be able to eat free and then have to start charging. I was not concerned with that because I witnessed firsthand the meals that we gave out to the community and the need that many families face with basic food needs,” Bryan said. “I heard from households who had never been in a line to pick up food for free for their families and they were embarrassed or just thankful. I reminded each household that shared its story with me that we are a community and we all pull together and do the best we can to help the kids in our district. So for me, it was easy to decide to use the waiver for any amount of time that was offered to our families because I know that the need is great.”

Copperas Cove ISD has offered students free meals — both breakfast and lunch — continuously since March 2020. During the first two weeks of the district’s summer feeding program from June 7-15, students have received 3,794 breakfasts and 5,558 lunches.

Bryan’s decision to continue offering families free meals in the 2021-2022 school year meant additional paperwork, reports, training of staff and restructuring of the traditional school meal program.

“It is important to me that the CCISD Child Nutrition Department continues to support the households in the community and that we continue to be a safety net to help eliminate food insecurities in families in Cove,” Bryan said. “Not everyone believes in feeding free breakfast and free lunch to kids and that is OK. But for those households who are still struggling, we are here.

“It is very important that the kids know that when they come through the food line, they are going to get the same service, the same smile and the food on the menu that they enjoy. Our mission does not change. We are feeding the kids.”

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