Monday, September 12, 2016

For five schools in Eugene, there IS such a thing as a free lunch!

Usually, before a new week of school starts, I will take some time to go over the week’s lunch menu in order to anticipate which days Jesse will be buying lunch or if he will be taking a lunch. That’s what I was doing yesterday afternoon. Jennifer has informed me that she wants to take a lunch to school every day, though I did ask her if she’d be willing to try the school lunch food every once in a while and she said she would. Jesse, however, has not yet decided if he wants to take a lunch every day, so we are pretty much leaving that open. If he likes what is being served for lunch, then he’ll buy it. But if not, then not.

So, I logged onto the school lunch menu site yesterday and brought up the menu. I called Jesse over to stand next to me and look at tomorrow’s lunch with me. Seeing something he would like to try, he told me he would buy lunch for today. I told him that that was fine and he did have money in his school lunch account, so that wasn’t a problem.

“Look, Mom, lunch is free,” he said, pointing at an area of the menu. I looked to where he was pointing and was surprised to discover that, this year, lunch for all students was indeed free. F-R-E-E!!! The school usually served breakfast to students for free, but now breakfast and lunch were both free! Hooray!

We both cheered and hugged over this good news.

It is sooo nice to have the weight of worry off of my shoulders over being able to make sure there was money available for my son’s school lunches. Last year, it was pretty rough, and there were times his lunch account got very negative. Now we won’t have to worry about that this year! I am so glad!

It’s interesting that this happened because just the other day I was grumbling over how people in jail get 3 meals a day for free but children in schools have to pay for just one lunch!

Also, over the summer, I was reading about schools that were now offering students free lunches. I got into a conversation with someone on Facebook about this and I was saying how I wished more schools would do this. There are so many families out there struggling to put food on the table as it is and they can barely have any food or money for their kids’ school lunches. For many children in many families, a school lunch is the only decent meal a child would receive in one day! I am glad that some schools offer free breakfast and/or free lunch to the students. I just wish every school in America could do that!

Even so, I was wondering why there was a change now. What brought about this change in policy? Was it a long-term thing? Did other schools in the area do this, too? Would we have to compensate in other areas of the school in order to make up for money lost on school lunches?

I got my answers today, when my son brought home a flyer explaining the situation. Basically, there is something called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which is part of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. This program selects a certain handful of schools in different areas to determine if they are eligible to serve free lunches to students. Eligible schools must have enough students that meet the program’s criteria. The 5 schools in Eugene that are serving free lunch to students this year are: Cesar Chavez Elementary, Howard Elementary, McCornack Elementary, River Road/El Camino del Rio Elementary, and Arts & Technology Academy. My son’s school is one of those 5 schools in Eugene that are eligible for the CEP. One of the other schools is the school my daughter attended last year! Oh, if only both of their schools were eligible for free lunches!

Still, Jen is happy to take a lunch to her high school, and that saves us money, too. I am still happy that at least one school is serving free lunches and we won’t have to worry about making sure my child has enough money to buy a hot meal.

I am very grateful and immensely relieved that my son’s school can now offer free breakfast AND lunch to students. It’s so important for a child to be well-fed, and hunger is a very big problem in today’s society. A child shouldn’t go hungry. I am grateful the CEP exists and so glad that for this year at least, students at 5 schools in Eugene can really have a free lunch.

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