By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) The Guam Department of Education is awaiting a waiver approval from the federal government to begin distributing breakfast and lunch every weekday to public school students.
The federal government, through newly-enacted U.S. Public Law 116-123 (Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020), recognized that for tens of millions of American public school children, the meals they get for free (or reduced cost) while at school are the only meals they will get to eat.
Guam is no exception to this reality.
According to Superintendent of Education Jon Fernandez, "[W]e were successful to be able to be approved under the Community Eligibility Program due to our high free and reduced percentage which allows us to feed 100 percent of our students at no cost. The emergency food services will be able to feed all public school students. We don’t know what the demand will be but I’m sure we will be learning about that quickly during the first few days. We will start with lunch and then expand to breakfast once we work out the kinks."
Mr. Fernandez said his agency hopes to begin the meal distributions, which will operate like a 'grab and go' system at different locations throughout the island, by the end of the week. It all depends on a waiver approval they need from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct their operation using local guidelines DOE has developed.
"We are looking at sites but nothing final until we confirm that we have sufficient staff on board," Mr. Fernandez said.
A listing of sites being sent around social media is an outdated draft listing, which DOE is adding to and subtracting from. Mr. Fernandez asks the community to wait for a final approved list, which he will send to the media once completed.
Earlier this week, Congressman Michael San Nicolas announced the U.S. House's passage of H.R. 6074, which became Public Law 113-123, and authorized USDA to grant emergency food relief to public school students throughout the nation.
"We stand ready to assist in any way the flow or follow through of communications we are channeled in to, and will continue to apprise the local government of any updates or opportunities to avail," Congressman San Nicolas said to the people of Guam following the House passage of that measure.