Public School Free Meal Program to Expand, Include Several Big Island Schools
Free meals will be offered to all students at 30 public schools across the state as the Hawai’i State Department of Education works with the United States Department of Agriculture to expand the free Community Eligibility Provision meal program, which began as a pilot program last year.
Seven schools participated in the program during the 2015-2016 school year. The program provides free meals to all students, regardless of their eligibility for free or reduced-priced lunch.
On the Big Island, several Puna district schools will be joining the program. Kau High & Pahala Elementary, Kea’au Elementary, Kea’au High, Kea’au Middle, Keonepoko Elementary, Naalehu Elementary, Pahoa Elementary, and Pahoa High schools will participate.
“We are pleased to be able to expand this program to more schools and include nearly every island with free meals,” stated Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “We’ve heard from parents in this year’s pilot project who say the program was a tremendous help for their families.”
In order to qualify for the CEP program, a district, grouping, or school is required to have a minimum of 40 percent or more of its students eligible for free or reduced-priced meals through the National School Lunch Program.
The DOE pays an average of $5.50 a meal. The USDA reimburses the state $3.85 for students who qualify for a free meal and $0.40 for those paying for a meal. The DOE then charges $2.50 for elementary school meals for a total of $2.90 in recouped costs for the state.
Under the program, all students in the CEP school would qualify for the higher $3.85 reimbursement.
Participating schools will no longer be collecting meal money and ensure that accounts have sufficient funds. Families will be required to provide information for data collection.
“Last year, we were able to launch this pilot project at seven schools to establish its impacts on finances and staffing,” said Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson, Office of School Facilities and Support Services. “The response was positive and we are happy that this year we will be able to expand the program to all counties and include several new whole school complexes. This USDA program allows us to feed more students, for free, and do so in a way that does not increase the cost to the state.”
Mountain View Elementary School was the sole Big Island participant in the seven-school pilot program last year. Five Molokai schools and one Oahu school also participated.
“I’m extremely pleased with the DOE decision to expand the CEP program which has proven to be very successful,” said Senator J. Kalani English. “With most of the pilot schools in my district, I have seen these students thrive thanks to the meals provided for them. Now with the expansion, more students and their families will benefit from the program, and that’s certainly a smart investment towards our future.”
Across the state, the 23 additional schools being added to the program in school year 2016-17 are:
Ka’u High & Pahala Elementary
Hana High & Elementary
Lanai High & Elementary
Nanakuli High & Intermediate
Waimanalo Elementary & Intermediate