Prince George's County schools cutting free dinner program due to supply shortage

Across the country, supply shortages have left schools struggling to provide healthy meals to students, and now those shortages are impacting Prince George’s Co. Public Schools.

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Free suppers will no longer be provided to students starting Monday Oct. 4.

In an email to school board members on Wednesday, CEO Dr. Monica Goldson blamed supply shortages.

"Beginning the week of October 4, PGCPS will discontinue the distribution of student suppers outside of Before and After School Enrichment programs due to supply shortages. With meals being free for all students nationwide, increased demand has placed a strain on food companies," Goldson wrote.

Right now those suppers are available to all students at the end of the day.

Students at Laurel High School said lunch ladies hand out the meals with things like milk, sandwiches and cheese to anyone who wants one.

Beth MacKenzie has twins at Capitol Heights Elementary School.

"Having that supper is really helpful for them," MacKenzie said. "And it’s also something that, from what I’ve heard in their school, they just hand it out as the kids walk out the door so there’s no stigma attached to it. Every kid gets it."

The bigger concern is for the children who don’t have reliable food at home.

School board member Edward Burroughs said he had no idea cutting the meals was on the table until he got the email from the CEO.

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"The reality is that we can still do this," Burroughs said.

He said he’s been reaching out to neighboring school districts and food providers, and believes PGCPS can find a way to continue free supers.

"We are still in the midst of a global pandemic and we still have families struggling," Burroughs said. "Throughout the county, I visited several food distribution sites and the lines are always wrapped around the street. So now is not the time to cut off food for our most vulnerable students."

A PGCPS spokeswoman couldn’t provide the number of students who utilize the meals Wednesday evening.

The district says free breakfast and lunch will still be provided, but parents should expect menu changes in light of supply shortages.