Public school children in North Central Colorado may be eligible for free lunches if their family's income is lower than 130% of the federal poverty level. The USDA has implemented several programs to ensure that students in need can access free or reduced-price meals, such as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), the electronic pandemic benefit transfer (P-EBT) program, and the Summer Food Service Program. Children from families with incomes equal to or less than 130% of the poverty level are entitled to receive free school meals. Those with incomes between 130% and 185% of the poverty level are eligible for meals at reduced prices (the student pays 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch).
High-poverty schools enrolled in the Federal Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) can continue with free meal service. The USDA also created the electronic pandemic benefit transfer (P-EBT) program to reimburse families with children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals for the value of school meals that have not been eaten due to interruptions in face-to-face teaching in schools related to the pandemic. Many of those children who owe school meals belong to families that earn too much to be considered for free or reduced-price lunches, but who also earn too little to pay for regular school meals. Studies have shown that students who eat breakfast at school score 17.5% higher on standardized math tests and attend 1.5 more days of school per year (No Kid Hungry). This has led school nutrition professionals to expand breakfast programs and launch summer and after-school meal programs to meet students' nutritional needs. Fortunately, many communities across the country have stepped up their school nutrition programs to ensure that children don't go hungry this summer.
The USDA's Summer Food Service Program allows schools that serve low-income communities to offer free meals and snacks to children in school cafeterias, parks, playgrounds, public housing complexes, summer camps or churches. Some states delegate their authority, leaving political decisions solely in the hands of local school districts. The study found that the average school meal program operates with a small deficit, and the reported cost of producing school meals generally exceeds federal reimbursements for those meals. Because schools can't pay off their meal-related debts with federal funding for child nutrition, many of the schools surveyed turned to other sources, such as charitable or PTA funds. The fresh fruit and vegetable program offers free snacks of fresh fruits and vegetables to students during the school day in elementary schools, with a high eligibility rate, free of charge and at reduced prices. Many schools even serve breakfast in the classroom so that students can enjoy a healthy meal during morning announcements.
Some low-income families, particularly those with several school-age children, struggle to pay the reduced daily copay for school breakfast (30 cents) and lunch (40 cents).So what is the average percentage of students who receive free or reduced lunch at schools in North Central Colorado? According to research conducted by No Kid Hungry, an organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America, approximately 50% of students in North Central Colorado receive free or reduced lunch.