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October 14, 2016

Initiative provides students with free school meals

Students at three schools have the opportunity to have all their school meals provided for this school year at no cost to their families.

The district is piloting the Community Eligibility Provision at Edison and Westgate elementary schools and Highlands Middle School. The provision allows all students to receive free meals with the aid of federal funds.

The move helps families by providing meals for their children. It also is expected to help students perform better in the classroom on full stomachs and increase participation in the district’s meal program.

“It’s a win for everybody,” says Nutrition Services Director Sam Shick.

The district served about 12,000 breakfasts and lunches each day in the first month of this school year and 84 percent were provided free or at reduced prices.

Under Community Eligibility Provision, a district may serve every student at a school free meals as long as at least 40 percent of that school’s enrollment already meet qualifying conditions for state or federal services.

The participating schools have student populations that guarantee the most federal support for the covered meals while still reaching more kids who don’t currently receive services.

Three schools were chosen for the pilot so the district could ensure everything runs smoothly before any expansion, Shick says. Another eight schools are potentially eligible for the program and the district will consider enrolling any of them in the future if the pilot is successful.

Edison and Westgate are already serving more meals at lunch and breakfast compared to the same time last year. Highlands has reported a 13 percentage point jump in the number of lunches provided. Students still have the option of bringing their own lunch at the participating schools.

School staff say lunch periods run more smoothly as students no longer worry about bringing cash or making sure their lunch accounts have funds.