Every child living in San Francisco will be offered free food starting this week, according to San Francisco Unified School District officials.

Starting Thursday, anyone under 18 years old can pick up meals at one of 18 school sites the district has designated as food distribution centers. 

People will be able to pick up two days’ worth of prepared meals, snacks, fresh fruit and vegetables and milk, according to district officials. 

Families need only provide the child’s name and birthday to receive a “grab-and-go” card they can then use to pick up their food. Adults can pick up meals without a child present. 

“By providing free meals to all children in the community, we hope to lessen the burden on San Francisco families during this difficult time,” Superintendent Vincent Matthews said in a news release Tuesday. 

The decision is the result of a U.S. Department of Agriculture rule change that allows federal reimbursement to districts that feed children who aren’t enrolled in their schools and who don’t qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, according to the announcement. 

That rule change, however, happened about three months ago.

“SFUSD offered free meals to all students in San Francisco from March through August,” district spokesperson Laura Dudnick said in an email Tuesday. 

“Student Nutrition Services has been working hard to put all the staffing and facilities measures into place to safely be able to offer meals to all youth in San Francisco once again, all while continuing to provide free meals to SFUSD students, and this took some time,” Dudnick said. 

Other Bay Area districts, including Oakland and West Contra Costa, announced back in September that they would be offering free meals to all children living within district boundaries, regardless of enrollment status.

During the summer months, the USDA had allowed districts to run similar programs in order to support families during the COVID-19 pandemic, but announced that funding would dry up as the 2020-21 school year began. 

The department quickly reversed its decision, however, and on Aug. 31 announced districts could continue to provide expanded food distribution programs “through the end of 2020, or until the available funding runs out,” according to a USDA announcement. 

SFUSD will offer food to children twice a week, with Thursdays open to all children 18 and younger, including district students, and Tuesdays open just to district students, Dudnick said. 

A list of food distribution locations and schedules can be found here.

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By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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