Free lunches available for all Park 1 students this year

Still important to complete forms for free/reduced lunches

Posted 8/17/21

Once again, all students enrolled in Powell schools will be able to receive free lunches throughout the school year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued “pandemic flexibilities” …

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Free lunches available for all Park 1 students this year

Still important to complete forms for free/reduced lunches

Posted

Once again, all students enrolled in Powell schools will be able to receive free lunches throughout the school year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued “pandemic flexibilities” for school districts, extending the program for free meals through June 2022.

“The waivers continue the [Biden-Harris] Administration’s commitment to provide safe, healthy meals free of charge to children as the pandemic continues to threaten the food and nutrition security of our most vulnerable,” the USDA said in a news release.

Unlike the 2020-21 school year, the local meals will only be available for students enrolled in Park County School District 1 this year — not all children in the community.

The district had partnered with Powell Valley Healthcare during the last school year, which provided meals to children under the age of 18 who didn’t attend district school; PVHC continued to provide free meals to local children over the summer as well.

However, as the new school year begins, “we weren’t given the flexibility under the new program to partner with a community organization like Powell Valley Healthcare like we did last school year,” said Mary Jo Lewis, business services coordinator for the district.

Up until last year, the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program reimbursement was determined using free and reduced lunch applications.

“We believe that it is important that all students have access to nutritious meals to fuel their brains for learning and activities,” Lewis said. “Our district has not had to increase meal prices to our parents with the dollars we have received for over six years, which keeps money in our patrons’ pockets to meet their families’ needs in other ways.”

While lunches will be available to all K-12 students regardless of income, Lewis said it’s still important for families to complete the application for free and reduced lunches this fall, as federal funds are based on that data.

“This vital funding helps our schools maintain important teacher-led intervention programs across our school for all students,” she said.

That includes supplies, curriculum, math and reading supports and lower student to teacher/instructional paraprofessional ratios, Lewis said.

All applications for free/reduced lunches remain confidential, she stressed. No one outside of the district’s business office staff — who approve applications based on federal guidelines —  sees any of the individual data.

“It is aggregated up to a school and district level for all reporting purposes,” Lewis said.

The federal government will continue to base Title I allocations and other funds on the number of Powell students who qualify for free and reduced meals. That includes money that school districts across America are receiving in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as funds from the CARES Act, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and American Rescue Plan. 

In Powell, the school district has used those funds to provide “additional instructional support, additional cleaning staff, technology to support remote and virtual learning, mobile hotspots for students that don’t have internet access as well as other supplies that allowed us to safely bring students back to school for in-person instruction,” Lewis said.

“We support the universal free meal program to our students as an important link in the overall education program we provide,” she added.

Meal prices remain in place for students who choose to take a second meal or if someone visits an elementary school for lunch. Some adults and children also may not eat a meal, but want to purchase milk through the cafeteria. 

“The Wyoming Department of Education also uses these prices for everything, even if for the most part students are not paying this year and are universally free,” Lewis said.

For more information about applying for free and reduced lunches, contact the administrative assistants at your child’s school.

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