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story.lead_photo.caption FILE: Any New Bloomfield child younger than 18 can pick up a meal on a school day.

NEW BLOOMFIELD — New Bloomfield R-3 School District will be offering free lunches and breakfasts for all students this semester thanks to an extension of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program.

Each year, the USDA Seamless Summer Option and Summer Food Service Program offers free summer meals in participating school districts where half or more of the students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts all over the country were able to participate even if they didn't meet that requirement.

New Bloomfield took advantage of the Seamless Summer Option, feeding students with delivered meals when school was closed.

On Aug. 31, the USDA announced it was extending the summer meal programs into the fall months — through the end of the year or until funding runs out.

"We started serving (free) lunches today," Superintendent Sarah Wisdom said Wednesday.

The free meals aren't just for students at the school. Any New Bloomfield child younger than 18 can pick up a meal on a school day.

Fulton Public Schools and North Callaway R-1 School District participated in the Summer Food Service Program this summer and are awaiting guidance and doing further research on how the SFSP extension might impact their food programs, administrators said.

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