7 Hawaii schools to offer free meals to all students as part of USDA program
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) will implement a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pilot program this school year at seven public schools, which will allow all students at those schools to receive free meal service. The program, called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), allows a school district, a group of schools or a single school to serve free meals to everyone even if they do not qualify for the free or reduced lunch reimbursement.
The CEP program has been adopted by jurisdictions around the country. "One major factor in the future of the program is the high cost of a meal in Hawaii compared with the much lower rates around the country," stated Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. "We're grateful for this opportunity to participate in this pilot to benefit families in need."
To qualify for CEP, a district, grouping or school must have a minimum of 40 percent or more of its students eligible for free or reduced meals through the National School Lunch Program.
Currently HIDOE pays an average of $5.50 a meal (including food costs, labor, utilities, etc.). The USDA reimburses the state $3.67 for students who qualify for a free meal and $0.40 for those paying for a meal. HIDOE charges $2.50 for elementary school lunch for a total of $2.90 in recouped cost for the state.
Under the program, all students in a CEP school would qualify for the higher $3.67 reimbursement. While the seven pilot schools will no longer be collecting meal monies and ensuring accounts have sufficient funds, families will be required to provide information for data collection.
"The schools were chosen so that the Department can analyze how families and students in a single island community such as Molokai, respond to the program while also giving officials the chance to study the impact of individual schools in separate and distinct districts on Oahu and Hawaii Island," Office of School Facilities and Support Services Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson said.
HIDOE's School Food Services Branch has a web-based site that will provide families at schools that are not in the CEP program with the option to submit applications for Free and Reduced-Price Meal Benefits online. For more information visit HawaiiPublicSchools.org.