School district releases criteria to receive free or cheap meals

Program helps families in need

The impending school year, and maybe the newly renovated kitchens and cafeterias around the Gunnison RE1J school district, have some in the school administration thinking about food.



Last year the Crested Butte Community School (CBCS) saw the number of lunches served to students rise by more than 20 percent, and they’re hoping those numbers remain high.
District business manager Stephanie Juneau says the skilled, stable staff in the CBCS cafeteria and the healthy dishes they’re creating are contributing to the increased participation in the school lunch program.
But another part of ensuring that the number of lunches sold stays high is making the meals affordable. A full-priced school lunch cost elementary students $2 and cost high school and community school students $2.50, but through the National School Lunch Program kids can get a break in the lunch line.
The size of the cost break depends on the size and financial situation of the student’s family. If certain criteria are met, the price of lunch can either be discounted or even free (see eligibility table).
Families getting benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or Food Stamp Program, are automatically eligible for the program and, in some cases, children in foster homes are, too.
District-wide, 13 percent of students participated in the program last year, up slightly from previous years.
The state and federal governments subsidize some of the money for the program, with the Feds chipping in $2.68 and the state paying $2.28 for every free meal the school serves, Juneau says.
That money doesn’t come close to covering the entire cost to the school.
“The governments’ payment certainly defrays the cost, but it doesn’t come close to covering it,” Juneau says.
But, she added, the district never anticipates making money, or even breaking even, on school lunches. It’s about getting a good meal to kids when they need one.
Applications to receive free or reduced price meals are being sent home with a letter to parents in anticipation of the school year, or they can be picked up in the office of any of the district’s schools.
District food services manager Pam Neary says, “People can apply all year if they aren’t eligible at the beginning of the year but their circumstances change. The earlier they apply the better because they’ll get more meals, but we have people apply to the end of the year.”

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