EVANSDALE, Iowa (KWWL) – A free breakfast and lunch.
That’s what the Waterloo Community School District is giving all of their students this school year, regardless of family income.
The meal program is an option for schools and districts in low-income areas. It’s called Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds it. They use a formula to determine eligibility.
The district has participated in CEP for the past three years, however, only some schools qualified. This year, the entire district is participating.
Under the program, every child gets a free, healthy breakfast and lunch. District leaders said it helps families who may be struggling to make ends meet.
“We’ve seen this in the past, you know, [a family] just missed the cutoff for the free or reduced meals, so this takes this burden off,” Bunger Middle School Food Services Director Heather Bathen said. “There’s no paperwork. There’s no guidelines. They’re all free.”
Bunger Middle School Principal, Larry Martin, said CEP eliminates meal shaming among peers. Every student gets the same meal. They stand in the same line.
“The aspect of not looking any different than your peers for something that they have no control over. It gives them an equal footing,” he said. “They come in, everyone gets their meal, everybody is an equal in the cafeteria.”
Bathen said on average, a family in the district will save about $800 a year with CEP. They no longer need to put money into an account or fill out waivers and forms.
Students are still able to bring a breakfast or lunch from home if they’d like. They can put food they haven’t eaten or opened on a community share table. Then, if a student is still hungry, they can grab an extra bite at no cost.
For more information about CEP in Iowa, visit: https://educateiowa.gov/pk-12/nutrition-programs/school-meals/community-eligibility-provision-cep-schools