CLUTE — Students at seven Brazosport ISD campuses will have the opportunity to enjoy free breakfast and lunch throughout the school year.
The qualifying schools, which include Freeport and Velasco elementary schools, Lanier Middle School, Freeport Intermediate, Lighthouse Learning Center, Brazos Success Academy and Brazosport High School, will receive funding for free meals through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision program.
“Families will greatly benefit from this program,” said Rachel Arthur, Brazosport ISD director of child nutrition, Monday at the board of trustees meeting.
The qualification for the federal program comes just as the trustees approved a 10-cent increase in school meal prices for the 2018-19 school year. The adjustment raises the price for elementary school lunch to $2.45 and secondary school lunch to $2.70.
The district has to raise prices by at least 10 cents each year to comply with a federal mandate, Arthur said, so she recommended the board’s approval of the change. In comparison to surrounding districts, Brazosport ISD’s meals remain fairly cheap, she said.
The price increases will not affect students at the schools that qualified for the Community Eligibility Provision program, which provides funding for breakfast and lunch in the nation’s schools with the highest student poverty rates. Arthur said the qualifying schools met the 40 percent minimum threshold for the number of students who qualify for free or reduced lunches without the need of an individual household application. Those students either are directly certified for free or reduced lunches through another state program such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or they are classified as homeless or foster children, Arthur said.
As of this month, there are 1,000 more such students in the district than at the same time last year, she said. The increase could be attributed to Hurricane Harvey, Arthur said.
Community Eligibility Provision meals are served at no cost to every enrolled student without the need to collect household applications, according to the USDA website. Federal reimbursement for the meals comes at 1.6 times the percentage of identified schools, Arthur said. The entirety of Brazosport ISD did not qualify for the provision. If the district had included all of its schools, it would lose more than $1 million per year, she said.
Brazosport ISD participating schools are part of the Freeport “feeder pattern,” meaning students attend elementary and secondary schools based on where they live, Arthur said. If a student goes to an elementary school with free lunch, the student will get free lunch in middle school as well, she said.
Brazos Success Academy and Lighthouse Learning Center are included because of their high rate of transient students, Arthur said.
The program locks schools in for free meals for four years, Arthur said.
For a parent, there is no additional paperwork for their child. Arthur said parents can opt to fill out the free or reduced lunch applications and doing so will provide the district with important data.
Brazosport ISD officials expect more students will eat at school. They have already hired more staff to serve and cook the free meals, Arthur said.
“We think it will be a great benefit for our students and our families,” Superintendent Danny Massey said.
He said he appreciates the hard work Arthur and her department put into finding the best resources for the district’s students.