LONGVIEW, Texas — Parents of Longview Independent School District elementary students can rest easy knowing their children will be fed at school, regardless of whether they remember to pack a lunch.
Starting in August 2019, every Longview ISD elementary student will receive free breakfast and lunch from the cafeteria thanks to the federal Community Eligibility Provision [CEP] program.
The LISD Board of Trustees approved the measure during Monday night's regular meeting.
A part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Community Eligibility Provision allows qualifying schools that serve populations with high poverty rates to provide free breakfast and lunch.
LISD Director of Child Nutrition Phyllis Dozier said the program will benefit students and parents as well as the district.
Parents will be informed of the new program in the coming weeks, Dozier said.
"When USDA first started the Community Eligibility Provision three years ago, Longview ISD was not high enough to receive 100 percent reimbursement. So, it was not financially sound for us to begin the program at that time," Dozier added. "But since that time, the USDA has added Medicaid to free students, which has raised our percentage so that we are qualified to receive 100% (full) reimbursement. This program does not take into account the students that are free/reduced due to income."
The program is for an initial three years with a bonus fourth year if the board so chooses.
Superintendent Dr. James Wilcox said programs like this are beneficial for some of Longview ISD's most vulnerable families.
"A child at should never have to worry about whether or not they're going to be able to eat a good breakfast or lunch," he said. "Too many of our students face challenges outside the classroom that impede their ability to succeed in the classroom. We can’t expect our students to focus on learning if they’re hungry and don’t know where their next meal is coming from."
Currently about 87 percent of students in Longview ISD qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
The CEP program eliminates the process of collecting household applications to determine eligibility for free or reduced meals. Schools are selected based on the number of students' families receiving benefits, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Non-CEP schools are required to charge students for paid meals at a price that is, on average, equal to the difference between free meal reimbursement from the federal government and the paid meal reimbursement, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture website.