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RUSD breakfast participation up 70.7%; 1/3 of students qualify for meal assistance
RUSD breakfasts
Ripon Unified Nutrition Services provided books to students at the curbside pickup last year during early goings of distance learning.

Ripon Unified Nutrition Services has seen an increase in breakfast participation this year.

Try a 70.7 percent increase.

That was based on the Key Performance Indicators, as presented recently by the district's Nutritional Services Supervisor Pearl Lo.

By contrast, lunch participation district-wide witnessed a decrease of over 50 percent (54.16 percent) since the beginning of this school year.

“Most of that was due to distance learning,” she added.

About one-third of RUSD qualifies for free and reduced meals – 33.7 percent (2019-2020 school year) and 32.1 percent (2020-2021) – in the past two years.

Lo pointed out in her report that school meals play an important role in the learning success of students.

“We are proud to provide nutritious meals in an environment where kids can enjoy their meals safely,” she said.

Her department is a self-supporting, non-profit, federally funded, with USDA being responsible for overseeing the program and, in California, the state Department of Education serving as the entity that administers it.

Along with breakfast and lunch, RUSD also offers a summer feeding option.

“Our main goal is to feed students a healthy, nutritious meal regardless of eligibility,” Lo said.

About a year ago, RUSD and other school districts were forced to go to distance learning.

"Nationally, school nutrition programs stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic. (We) continued to make sure students received the fuel they needed to learn," said Lo, who reported the number of meals (breakfast and lunch) served between March and June 2020 at 44,212.

The impact of the pandemic coupled with the early going of distance learning to start the 2020-2021 school year revealed a big drop off of meals served in RUSD.

She reported 1,248 meals served in August 2020. A year earlier, RUSD kicked off serving 20,733 meals in August 2019.

With the return to in-person learning some three months later, RUSD had close to normal numbers – 20,549 for November 2020 compared to 22,005 for November 2019.