As parents prepare for the upcoming school year, Nutrition Services has taken one key responsibility off their plates — providing students with breakfast, lunch, and dinner free of charge for the second year in a row.
All HISD schools are once again qualified to operate under the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Community Eligibility Provision, which provides students with access to three healthy meals each day — at no cost to them and without having to fill out a free and reduced-price meal application.
“We’re excited to continue to serve our students good food that will power their learning,” Nutrition Services Officer Betti Wiggins said.
The Community Eligibility Provision — more commonly referred to as CEP —allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to serve meals at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications. Schools are eligible for the program if they have a certain percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced meals based on their participation in programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Instead of completing the free and reduced-price meal application, parents will be asked to complete a socioeconomic information form. Information gathered from the form will be used to determine the amount of federal funding that is disbursed to schools. The data gathered from the form will be used as a performance indicator for student achievement.
According to Wiggins, serving meals at no charge does more than ease the financial burden on families. It also prevents the practice of lunch shaming, which takes place when students are ridiculed by others because of their free-lunch status.
In addition to offering meals at no charge, Wiggins said the department also is focusing on engaging students on the campus-level through a new program that will take the lessons of healthy eating beyond the plate, teaching students about the impact of healthy food on their lives.
“To be food literate means to critically reflect on the effects of food choices on individual, family, and community health,” said Dr. Tesha Williams, director of Nutrition Services’ Food Literacy and Inclusion program.
Williams said Food Literacy and Inclusion infuses programming into the school day to support child development, the school, and community. This year’s programming will include cultivating critical thinking to learn about campus garden ecosystems.