Winnacunnet High School has been offering free breakfast and lunch to all students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Breakfast is served at the main entrance when students first walk in and lunch is served outside the dining hall across from the Warrior Trading Post.
“The decision to offer free lunch and breakfast initially was made by Winnacunnet and the government,” Chef Ed Comeau said. “It was designed to help families in need.”
Comeau said the free meal pickup was going to end in mid-September, but was extended twice, once to December 31 and then to the end of the 2020-2021 school year or June 30, whichever date arrives first.
“We started out conservatively serving just cold sandwiches and pizza on Fridays with a lackluster start,” Comeau said. “We did this deliberately not knowing what to expect.”
Hot meals began being offered on January 19. Comeau said items that students really like were added to the menu, including cheeseburgers, chicken patty sandwiches, mac and cheese and Rib-a-que.
Comeau said the dining hall is able to accomodate students who are gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant and students with food allergies.
“We would ask that any students with the requirements to please identify themselves so that we may accommodate them,” Comeau said.
Comeau said the average cost of a lunch is $2.40-$2.60, with breakfast being around $1.65 each. Hot breakfasts and lunches cost about $0.25 more to make. In January the dining hall was serving around 170 lunches and 80-100 breakfasts per day including pick-ups.
“We are anticipating average daily numbers to increase with more popular and hot meals being offered,” Comeau said.
After introducing more popular lunches, the amount of students getting lunch increased slightly.
“The amount of hot lunches has increased minimally,” Comeau said. “A lot of students are bringing in their lunch from home.”
He added some students will opt for the school’s hot lunch even when they bring a lunch from home.
Comeau said the cost of serving lunch and breakfast has gone up due to packaging, cleaning supplies and equipment needed to make the meals.