Jul 232014

By Tammy Gray

No student in the Holbrook school district will go hungry at breakfast or lunch due to a lack of money during the 2014-15 school year. Free breakfast and lunch will be served to all students, regardless of income level, thanks to a federal lunch program for low-income areas.

In past years, some students received free or reduced cost breakfast and lunches, but the cost was based on income levels and parents were required to complete certain forms before students could receive free lunches. Under the new program, no paperwork is required and income is not a factor.

Retired District Business Manager Garry McDowell previously explained that the district’s large number of Title I students helped it qualify for the program. In short, the “community eligibility provision” of the federal lunch program allows districts to circumvent the individual application system and declare all students eligible for the program.

Students do not need to take any action to receive free breakfast or lunch. Breakfast will be served in the cafeteria at each school prior to the start of the school day on the same schedule as last year, beginning at 7:30 a.m. at Holbrook High School, 7:40 a.m. at Park Elementary School and Holbrook Junior High School, and at 7:50 a.m. at Hulet Elementary School. Lunch will also be served on the same schedule as last year. Snack bar and concession items will be available at regular price, but there will be no charge for standard school lunches.

The community eligibility provision has been in effect for three years, but only in 11 states. As of July 1, it became available to all states and the Holbrook District was prepared to join the program. The district will be required to cover any cost difference between the federally allowed amount and the total cost of offering free meals, but an administrative cost savings is expected since paperwork processing for free meal applications, as well as billing for lunches and other accounting services, will be eliminated.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the community eligibility provision has four distinct advantages over the individual eligibility model: all students have access to nutritious meals; administrative costs and paperwork are reduced; alternative meal services are acceptable, such as kiosks or in-class meals; and student meal charges are eliminated.