ST. CHARLES – The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout from it has greatly increased the number of families having to use the district's free meal program.
Dist. 303 uses Organic Life to provide meals to students in kindergarten through eighth grade and Quest for the district's two high schools. Breakfast and lunch meals are free to children between the age of 1 to 18.
Information about where the meals can be picked up is at the district's website, district.d303.org. At the high school level, the number of meals the district has supplied has dramatically increased in the last year.
In October 2019, 4,891 lunches were distributed to high school students, compared to 30,926 this October.
On Nov. 23, more than 15,000 meals were distributed to St. Charles East and North students for the week, Seth Chapman, the district's assistant superintendent of business services and chief financial officer, told board members at the board's business services committee meeting on Nov. 23.
"So that blows away anything we've ever done in the past," he said.
Dist. 303 students will participate in full remote instruction through Dec. 18. Students will be on winter break starting Dec. 21 and school will be back in session on Jan. 5.
Board member Becky McCabe took note of the increased need.
"That tells you a lot about the community and what we are all going through," she said. "I'm glad we're able to do that service."
Board Vice President Carolyn Waibel agreed. She also took note of the current food insecurities among families in the district.
"It's our responsibility, in addition to providing the education, to provide this service for our families that are in need...While obviously our primary purpose is education, the basic needs are to be met first."