Even though many school districts are starting off the year with virtual learning, many will continue to provide school lunches for both paying students and those who receive free/reduced lunches.

Austin Independent School District has been providing meals for all children and their parents and caregivers this summer, and thanks to a last-minute extension from the USDA will be able to continue to offer free meals to any children under the age of 19, even if they are not currently enrolled in the district, through December.

Starting on Sept. 8, nearly 50 schools across the city will start distributing both breakfast and lunch for curbside pickup each day from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Parents or caregivers do not need to present proof of enrollment, and they can pick up the meals at any of the 48 participating sites.

Since July, the Austin district has also been giving away boxes of fresh produce from the Common Market Texas, and that program will continue through Oct. 7. The boxes feature a variety of Texas-grown vegetables and are available at no cost to families with children under the age of 19. Children may accept the boxes, or they will be provided to the adults accompanying children or with documentation of the children receiving meals. Boxes are available until they run out.

You can find the latest information about this year’s school lunch plan, the distribution sites and those farm boxes at austinisd.org/openforlearning/meals.

Students in Round Rock ISD also can receive lunch and breakfast through the food services department for the first three weeks of school and longer if remote learning continues into the fall.

Families can fill out an online meal order form to request the meal service; they also can show a student ID or a document, such as a report card, to pick up the meals without filling out the form.

Meal distribution will take place from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday at a dozen elementary, middle and high schools in the district. Round Rock High School, Stony Point High School, Westwood High School and Cedar Ridge High School also will offer a pickup time from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. during the week. For more information and to find a full list of distribution sites, go to foodservices.roundrockisd.org.

In Pflugerville, families can pick up meals from 7 to 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday at 10 locations throughout the city, and all students can receive a free breakfast and snack each day. Bring the student’s ID number when picking up the meals, and you don’t have to pick up the meal at the student’s home school. Go to pfisd.net for more information.

In the Westlake area, student meals in the Eanes district can be picked up daily from 11:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the bus drop-off at Forest Trail Elementary School, 1203 Loop 360 South.

Del Valle students and families can pick up meals from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Thursday at Del Valle High School, Baty and Creedmoor elementary schools and Ojeda and Dailey middle schools.

Sweet Pea launches lunch delivery service for students

Many Central Texas schools are starting on Sept. 8 with distance learning for at least the first month of the academic year. As noted, most school districts are continuing to provide breakfast and lunch for curbside pickup, and a new food delivery company is offering student meal delivery.

Sweet Pea is a new business from Nicole Fabian, who previously worked as the operations manager for Revolution Foods, a Bay Area-based company that makes healthy school food with the goal of reducing childhood obesity.

Each week, Sweet Pea offers a regular meal, usually a dish like barbecue chicken, cheese enchiladas or ravioli with garlic bread, that requires reheating, as well as a sack lunch that might include a chicken salad sandwich or a chicken Caesar wrap. All meals are served with whole fruit, such as an apple, banana or orange.

Fabian and her team are preparing individually packaged, kid-friendly meals in portions appropriate for the student’s age, and they offer vegetarian and gluten-free options, too. None of the dishes contain peanuts, tree nuts or shellfish.

The service launches Sept. 8, but customers need to place their orders a week ahead of time.

Deliveries are made twice a week, with a fee depending on the ZIP code. You can find out more and sign up at sweetpeadelivers.com.