Meal program won’t continue into the summer

The meal program offered free breakfast and lunch during the week to any district student.

The meal program launched to feed the district’s students when schools were shuttered because of COVID-19 concerns will not continue into the summer. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District administration said in a memo they don’t have the “funding, staffing, facilities or food and milk availability to provide meals over the summer.”

The meal program offered free breakfast and lunch during the week to any district student across the borough.

The district has never provided a summer meal program in the past, a memo from district administration to the school board said.

The program’s transportation costs are currently being covered by the state. Those state funds aren’t available in the summer. The memo says the district is using 25 buses a day to deliver meals to designated sites across the peninsula. The buses are under a contract with Apple Bus. The district is using money from the state that is normally used to transport students during a regular school year. At the current contract rate, the buses cost $15,492.65 per day to use.

The memo says there are 57 days during the summer when food would need to be delivered, which would cost the district $883,081 in food transportation costs.

“There is no revenue available to fund that cost,” the memo said.

The district will also have a shortage of staff to prepare and distribute meals this summer. There are 65 staff members currently preparing meals in the district, 40 of which have indicated they won’t be able to work during the summer, the memo said.

“That number far exceeds our current sub list, and we do not feel we would be able to effectively find and train enough substitutes to fill in for the need over the summer,” the memo said.

Several school buildings are set to undergo maintenance during the summer, which will close those buildings and “complicate” the ability to prepare and transport meals to other communities, the memo said.

The district’s memo also says they would “have trouble acquiring enough food and milk products” for student meals because their contract with the current vendor ends May 19.

The district will continue serving meals through May 19, and while it does not benefit all communities on the peninsula, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula will be delivering summer meals to the areas of Seward, Kenai and Nikiski.