This upcoming school year, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) will expand a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) free meal program, called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), from seven public schools to 30 across the state.
The CEP program allows a school district, a group of schools or a single school to serve free meals to all students even if they do not qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch reimbursements.
“We are pleased to be able to expand this program to more schools and include nearly every island with free meals,” said 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.”
The 23 additional schools being added to the program in school year 2016-17 are:Kauai
- Kekaha Elementary
- Kau High & Pahala Elementary
- Keaau Elementary
- Keaau High
- Keaau Middle
- Keonepoko Elementary
- Naalehu Elementary
- Pahoa Elementary
- Pahoa High
- Hana High & Elementary
- Lanai High & Elementary
- Leihoku Elementary
- Maili Elementary
- Makaha Elementary
- Nanaikapono Elementary
- Nanakuli Elementary
- Nanakuli High & Intermediate
- Olomana School
- Pope Elementary
- Waianae Elementary
- Waianae High
- Waianae Middle
- Waimanalo Elementary & Intermediate
The seven schools in the pilot program will continue participating next year, including:
- Kaunakakai Elementary School, Molokai
- Kilohana Elementary School, Molokai
- Maunaloa Elementary School, Molokai
- Molokai Middle School, Molokai
- Molokai High School, Molokai
- Mountain View Elementary School, Hawaii Island
- Linapuni Elementary School, Oahu
To qualify for the CEP program, a district, grouping or school must have a minimum of 40 percent or more of its students eligible for free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program.
Currently HIDOE pays an average of $5.50 a meal (including food costs, labor, utilities, etc.). The USDA reimburses the state $3.85 for students who qualify for a free meal and $0.40 for those paying for a meal. HIDOE charges $2.50 for elementary school meals for a total of $2.90 in recouped cost for the state.
Under the program all students in the CEP school would qualify for the higher $3.85 reimbursement. While the seven schools will no longer be collecting meal monies and ensuring 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.”
HIDOE’s School Food Services Branch has a website that will provide families at schools that are not in the CEP program with the option to submit applications for free and reduced-price meal benefits online.