NEW BLOOMFIELD, Mo. — As the New Bloomfield R-3 School District prepares to switch to a four-day school week, some are wondering how the calendar will impact students who rely on school lunches.
The district is still working through many details related to the new calendar, but food is one of their considerations, New Bloomfield Superintendent Sarah Wisdom said in an email.
"Food is always something we think about for our students," Wisdom wrote.
Callaway County farmer Charles E. Ausfahl doesn't have any academic objections to the new calendar — his grandchildren in the North Callaway R-1 School District already have a four-day week, and he said they haven't had any problems.
But he does want to know how the district plans on helping children with food insecurities.
"I am concerned about the kids being home three days a week and falling through the cracks," Ausfahl said. "In a country where no kid should go to bed hungry, one out of six kids go to bed hungry."
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education data shows 47 percent of students at New Bloomfield Elementary School and 35.4 percent at New Bloomfield High School received free or reduced-price lunch in 2018.
In nearby North Callaway, which moved to a four-day schedule in 2017, the figures of students who rely on free and reduced lunch are similar — 35.6 percent at the high school and 45.7-56.7 percent at each of the district's three elementary schools.
But North Callaway Superintendent Nicky Kemp said the district hasn't heard any complaints about school lunches since the introduction of the four-day schedule.
"I'm not saying there's not a need, it just hasn't been brought to our attention," Kemp said. "Our families haven't come to us and said that this was a need."
One stopgap currently in place is the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri's Buddy Pack program.
The program provides supplemental supplies of food to elementary students on free and reduced-price lunches to help them through the weekend. The packs includes two entrees, a fruit cup, cereal with shelf-stable milk and a nutritional bar.
"Just this year, we've noticed that more school districts are moving to a four-day week," the Food Bank's children's programs coordinator Stacey Brown said.
But the program wasn't designed to help children get through a three-day weekend. At every district in the Food Bank's 32-county coverage area, students receive the same two-day Buddy Pack.
As the Food Bank plans for next year, it's working to come up with ways to meet the needs of children in districts with four-day weeks, Brown said.
In New Bloomfield, the district's Monday Academy program, where some students will be able to come in for extra academic help on Mondays, will provide lunch and breakfast, Wisdom said.
Because the program falls outside of normal school hours, free and reduced-price lunch reimbursements won't apply. Wisdom said during a Jan. 16 school board meeting the district plans to find a solution.
New Bloomfield also talked about adding to the Buddy Pack program, Wisdom said. The district is also working to open a free food pantry for the community.