Omaha metro schools adjust to changes in free lunch programs

Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 10:52 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Last week, Congress passed the Keep Kids Fed Act, extending the expanded pandemic-era distribution of free meals for all students through the summer.

Starting in the fall, schools will have to turn to other programs to provide free or affordable meals to students.

Free meals for all students will continue in both the Omaha Public Schools and Council Bluffs Community Schools District because they qualify for the federal Community Eligible Provision (CEP).

The CEP permits districts with a certain percentage of low-income families to apply.

OPS tells 6 News that through the 2024-2025 school year, CEP funds will allow them to provide free breakfast and lunch to all of its students.

Meanwhile, Millard Public Schools, Westside Community Schools, and Papillion La Vista Community Schools don’t qualify for the CEP and will return to pre-pandemic programs managed by the USDA.

Under those programs, families that fall under certain income thresholds can receive meals free or at a reduced cost.

“We feed a lot of students,” said Annette Eyman, communications director for Papillion La Vista Community Schools. “For a lot of kids, it’s the solid meal that they get during that day.”

Districts like PLCS are trying to keep the costs of lunches down for everyone now that the free lunches for all students funding are expiring. They’re raising meal prices across the district by five cents, while costs to prepare those lunches have risen even more.

“That’s basically just to cover the increasing costs,” she said. “The grocery costs that are going up, the paper costs that are going up, the labor costs that are going up.”

Even in districts that still have free meals due to CEP funding, families are encouraged to do the paperwork for free and reduced meals.

“If you qualify for free or reduced lunches, that’s the monitor,” Eyman said. “You get your fees waived, some uniform costs, different expenses that you may experience throughout the school year, those would all be waived if you qualify for free and reduced lunch.”

Copyright 2022 WOWT. All rights reserved.