ALTUS – In Oklahoma, 62 percent of public school children participate in the free and reduced price meal program. This school year, Oklahoma schools in areas of high poverty, including select schools in Altus, have the opportunity to provide all students with breakfast and lunch at no charge, while potentially reducing school administrative costs.
“One in four children in Oklahoma has inconsistent access to food,” said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. “Hungry children cannot learn. In fact, food-insecure children are 1.4 times more likely to repeat a grade. This is why the free and reduced price meal program is so important.”
Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a tested and proven program that launched nationwide last year. If a school or school district demonstrates that 40 percent or more of the student body is directly certified for the school meal program, the school can offer complimentary breakfast and lunch to all students.
In Altus, schools eligible for CEP are Will Rogers Elementary School and Altus Intermediate School.
There are two ways a student can qualify for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program. Parents can return an application to the school demonstrating financial need, or if the child’s family is a recipient of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program); TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families); FDPIR (Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations) or the child has a status of being foster care, Head Start, homeless, runaway or migrant.
For schools eligible for CEP, the application process for school meals is eliminated entirely. CEP benefits both schools and students by: decreasing administrative costs and time related to processing applications; enhancing efficiency by eliminating the need to collect payment; eliminating debt of unpaid meal charges; reducing stigma associated with eating school meals and allowing for better integration of meals into the school day.
Last year, only 100 Oklahoma schools in 18 districts enrolled in CEP. According to the Oklahoma Department of Education website, 848 schools in 345 districts are eligible for CEP during the 2015-2016 school year. Schools have until August 31 to opt in to this opportunity.
“If a school near you is eligible, please reach out to the school administrators, teachers, counselors, school board and other school officials to share the important benefits of this program,” said Bivens.
For a complete list of eligible schools, please visit http://bit.ly/1IgkdUv or contact Effie Craven at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 405.600.3129. For more information visit http://1.usa.gov/1iP9FQI.