Free meals continue at Spokane area school districts this upcoming year

SPOKANE, Wash. — More students in Washington will receive free breakfast and lunch this school year.

This is because of a Washington bill, House Bill 1878, which passed earlier this year.

It’s now a law that expands a federal USDA program called the Community Eligibility Provision program.

School districts need to apply for this program to cover lunch costs for students.

This school year, only 40% of students need be eligible as opposed to 62.5% in previous years.

According to one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Marcus Riccelli, this percentage is determined by federal data and as long as the state of Washington pays for it, the law will stay in effect.

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Districts like Spokane Public Schools meet the threshold this year, meaning all students will get free meals regardless of family income.

“Having it expanded to all students really is a wonderful thing,” said Nutrition Services Supervisor at SPS Ellen Ramus. “It impacts all the families in our district. I mean, even families who might not be feeling the squeeze of a budget can benefit from having our district on CEP.”

This comes as the federal pandemic waiver covering meals expired back in June and was not extended.

SPS is now asking families to still fill out a CEP survey, which asks for family income information.

Other local school districts providing free meals but also asking families to fill out CEP survey:

This information is not needed this year to determine free and reduced meals, that’s already covered, but instead for school program funding.

“A lot of programming funding is based on free and reduced percentage and so the family income survey helps our district collect that information so that we can continue getting program funding,” said Ramus.

The information required in the survey is similar to what’s been required in an annual free and reduced meal application.

It will ask how many people live in your home and how much money you make annually.

Families are asked to fill out this survey, one per household, to ensure educational programs continue to be funded at school.

With this information, students could also qualify for other benefits, like waived fees for sports, school clubs and testing.

Processing of the survey could take up to ten days and it must be completed by Monday, Sept. 26.

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