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School summer feeding program extended

Move will help Cheney to provide breakfasts and lunches through the end of July


Last updated 10/29/2020 at 11:17am

CHENEY – An extension of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s summer feeding program is allowing the district to provide students meals both at school and at home until at least late July, 2021.

The Simplified Summer Food Program for Children offers meals at no charge for kids ages 18 and younger regardless of need. The program usually runs through summer, but was extended to the end of June 2021, and subsequently extended again in early October to allow for meals through the end of July, Cheney School District Director of Nutrition LJ Klinkenberg said.

With the exception of kindergarten, special education and homeless students returning to in-person instruction last month, most Cheney students are continuing online instruction due to Covid-19 health and safety protocols, making the summer feeding program’s extension more important. Klinkenberg said they are currently providing more than 1,000 students meals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the meal pickup program — students who might not be able to regularly get a meal unless they were attending school.

The program provides students who sign up two breakfasts, two lunches and four milks on Monday and Wednesday along with breakfast, lunch and two milks on Friday. Adjustments can be made for weeks with holidays or non-school days.

Klinkenberg said it’s been frustrating providing the meals as he and his staff are used to preparing fresh, made-from-scratch meals in school kitchens under normal circumstances. This allows for meal planning and preparation that ensures proper calorie intake and nutrition appropriate to that grade level.

Because of the need to minimize contact, the school district has been preparing its meals with prepackaged foods that create challenges to nutrition as well as creativity, balanced with being able to ship products. Klinkenberg said they have been able to work with this situation, providing extra features that help increase the caloric offering while making meals fun — and in some cases providing an extra snack down the road.

“Trying to max the calories out has been interesting,” Klinkenberg said.

Breakfasts range from 500 – 600 calories while lunches run 700 – 850 calories. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always included, making sure packaged fruits are in their juices, not syrup.

Breakfast also includes a serving of grain and protein, sometimes in a bar. Lunches sometimes feature fresh-made salads, when possible, with entrees ranging from burritos — with a churro thrown in to increase the calories and provide more substance — to the popular chicken and waffles, tacos, macaroni and cheese and cheeseburgers.

Klinkenberg said they learned from experience during spring to steer away from traditional sandwiches for lunch, opting instead to look at a wider range of entrees that can be prepared and pre-heated in school kitchens, packaged and made ready for students to toss into microwaves.

“No dry sandwiches every day, like spring,” Klinkenberg said. “That was a real morale killer for us and the kiddos.”

Klinkenberg said they have a company that features some very nice pasta dishes, and are always on the lookout for new products. A couple he believes he has found is one company that features a Southern chicken sandwich and another that has a nicely packaged and prepared Asian rice bowl – something that is popular with students under normal lunch conditions.

Klinkenberg said they make sure to also avoid products containing nuts and salt, something they don’t usually have to worry about when making meals from scratch since the district can control the ingredients. The district has also been able to obtain a number of small grants that help augment the federal program, helping to provide for additional products and ingredients.

Klinkenberg said they also are providing breakfast and lunch for the few students who are attending classes in person, bringing the food to the classrooms as per health district Covid-19 protocols. While he and his staff miss the fun of preparing meals from scratch, being able to provide nutritious food along with some fun meals does serve as a bit of a substitute.

“It’s still nutritious and it’s still done to our high standards,” Klinkenberg said. “We’re just not getting to do homemade stuff right now.”

Cheney Public Schools student meal pickup locations and times.

Basalt Ridge Apartments, 7:50 – 8:20

Bi-Mart, Cheney, 7:30 – 8:20

Cedar Summit Apartments, 7:35 – 8:05

Cheney High School, 7:30 – 8:30

Cheney Middle School, 7:30 – 8: 30

Copper Landing Apartments, 7:50 – 8:20

Salnave Elementary School, 7:50 – 8:20

Snowdon Elementary School, 7:30 – 8:15

Sunset Elementary School, 7:30 – 8:30

Vietzke Village, 7:10 – 7:40

West Prairie Mobile Home Park, 7:10 – 7:40

Westwood Middle School, 7:30 – 8:30

Yokes Airway Heights, 7:50 – 8:20

All times are a.m. Drop offs are via school buses for all non-school district locations. Drop offs on school district sites are in the school’s bus loop.

John McCallum can be reached at


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