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Free meals for all students under the age of 18 are continuing through the second semester of school, Siloam Springs School District recently reminded parents.

In September, the United States Department of Agriculture extended the Seamless Summer meal program through the first semester, then announced on Oct. 9 the program will be extended through the end of the school year, according to Jason Carter, director of child nutrition.

The Seamless Summer program allows all children under the age of 18 to receive a free lunch and breakfast each day, Monday through Friday, at no charge, whether they attend school in person, virtually or not at all.

Carter said he has heard positive feedback from both parents and teachers. The program has helped make sure that kids who fall through the cracks, either because they are not on the free and reduced lunch program and should be or because they don't qualify for the program but still can't afford to eat at school, have meals, he said.

When kids know they have a meal waiting for them it eliminates some of the anxiety of food insecurity, he said.

"It makes a lot of difference, a lot of teachers don't have to worry about kids, if they see kids that don't have a lunch box, they can send them to the cafeteria, it's free," he said.

The district hasn't seen an increase or decrease in the number of meals served this year compared to previous years, Carter said. It's important to note that many students have been quarantined, two schools have been shut down for several weeks and that some students have switched to virtual school, he said.

"Outside of that, (the Seamless Summer program) has been good for participation," he said.

Students in the virtual academy can pick up meals at the high school each day, Carter said. The district delivers between 15 and 30 meals a day to children who aren't enrolled in school at a drop-off point in Bob Henry Park, Carter said. Children served by the program may include home schooled students, children who are too young to attend school or who have already graduated but are still under the age of 18, and students who may just be visiting a family member or grandparent, he said.

"It's just another way to serve our community," he said.

For more information, including links to sign up for meals, visit siloamschools.com/child-nutrition.

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