Who says there’s no such thing as free lunch?

House Bill 2545 provides free school lunch for all who qualify for ‘reduced’

POLK COUNTY — The number of kids eating free lunch at school has increased, thanks to House Bill 2545, passed during the 2015 Legislative session.

The bill provides school districts with reimbursement for anyone who qualifies for reduced price lunch under federal guidelines.

In Central School District, that means an additional 253 children no longer have to carry 40 cents to eat lunch. Out of the 3,253 students enrolled, 1,779 qualify for free lunch in Central schools.

Mike Vetter, the food services director for Central School District, is contracted out to serve both Dallas and Falls City schools as well.

He said the change won’t affect Falls City at all.

“Falls City is free for everybody because they’re a CEP site,” Vetter said.

A CEP (community eligibility provision) site is reserved for districts with very high poverty level. Every child in Falls City School District is eligible for a free breakfast and lunch.

All students in Central schools also receive a free breakfast option, Vetter said, regardless of whether or not they qualified for free or reduced meals.

“For Central, it was so important that we offered breakfast to students,” he said. “We found that a hungry student doesn’t learn very well.”

With the reimbursement provided by HB 2545, the district will see a little more money from those free breakfasts, but not much, Vetter said.

Mostly, he hopes the change will encourage more people to use the school lunch program.

“Of course the paid kids are definitely welcome to eat as well,” Vetter said.

He said it is always good to fill out a second, or even a third, application for free or reduced lunch.

“If their status changes in life, especially if it changes negatively, apply again,” he said. “You never know.”

In October, everyone will have to fill out a new application, which is only good for one year.

“We have pages of kids’ names whose applications are getting ready to expire,” Vetter said.

Applications may be picked up from every school building in Dallas and Central school districts. Also, they may be found online: www.ode.gov.

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