Cambridge schools are now offering meals to any student in the district, regardless of financial need.

In early March, the Cambridge School District began providing meals to students that had been identified by the district, after schools closed because of COVID-19, said Janice Murray, the district’s food service director.

Beginning April 13, the district opened its meal program up to any student 18 and under.

Staff members deliver meals, and offer pick-up, twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Cambridge Elementary School, 802 W. Water St.

Murray said students receive breakfast and lunch for two days on Mondays, and breakfast and lunch for three days on Wednesdays.

“(It’s) all familiar food that they had at school, which the kids are loving because they miss that connection,” Murray said. “It just adds a little bit more normalcy and a little more connection to the school.”

Murray said the meals are being supported by the National School Lunch Program, administered by the USDA and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Murray said Cambridge’s meals are covered on a temporary basis under the summer school lunch program run by those two organizations.

These programs began offering a waiver after schools closed in March, which eliminated a lot of paperwork and procedure for families, Murray said. That’s why Cambridge made the shift to providing meals for all district students.

“It’s been something we’ve wanted to do, we just need to ramp up,” said Superintendent Bernie Nikolay. “We started with a little smaller number, just to get our feet on the ground.”

Murray said she hopes the meals’ expanded participation can help families who need it right now.

“It’s really important because of the situation that families have been put in, where normally they wouldn’t need help with meals,” Murray said. “It just takes that worry away from them.”

“The longer this goes on, the more it’s going to affect people. That’s why we feel it important to offer it to everyone,” she continued.

She stressed that the program is not based on financial need.

“It doesn’t matter if you financially need it or not, it’s available to you,” Murray said.

Cambridge saw an immediate spike in participation once meals were open to all students, Murray said.

“The numbers have gone up pretty significantly,” Nikolay said at an April School Board meeting.

The school district is providing about 260 meals a day and has distributed over 6,200 meals since early April.

“Within 24 hours (of expanding to everyone), 28 people signed up,” Murray said. “It’s been really expanding quite rapidly.”

“Our food service workers, they all deserve a medal,” Nikolay added.

If families are interested in signing up for the meal program, they should contact Murray at (608) 423-9727 extension 1116 or jmurray@cambridge.k12.wi.us.

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