THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) has confirmed that a free school meals scheme for children at Department of Defence Education Activity (DODEA) Schools, including those located in the UK, will be extended to June 2021. The scheme is designed to ensure that the children of US service personnel based abroad continue to receive regular meals in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Department of Agriculture subsidizes the scheme to provide free meals at DODEA schools, and in announcing the extension, the Secretary for Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, said that "As our nation recovers and reopens, we want to ensure that children continue to receive the nutritious breakfasts and lunches they count on during the school year wherever they are, and however they are learning".
The DODEA schools in the UK set to benefit include those based at RAF Alconbury, RAF Feltwell and RAF Lakenheath.
The free school meal package was originally introduced for the summer and fall of 2020, but has been extended through June 2021. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Osby, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service’s senior enlisted advisor, explained that "The US Department of Agriculture recently granted a waiver to the DoD School Food Authorities to provide free school meals through June 30, 2021 ... This is great news for our military families, especially during these challenging times."
The news comes amid a high profile decision by the UK government not to extend its own free school meal scheme for children of low-income households in Britain, preferring to increase benefits and funding to local councils. The scheme, which continues to run during term time, won't offer free meals during holidays, including the October half term and the December break. The campaign to extend the scheme, led by Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford, has garnered support from across the UK, with a recent YouGov poll finding 57% of Britons saying the government should provide food during non-term times to students who are eligible for free school meals.
If you'd like to learn more about the extended free school meals package for students of DODEA schools, go to www.aafes.com/about-exchange/school-lunch-program/.