A program to provide all Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District students with free breakfast and lunch each school day was approved by the Board of Trustees during their regular meeting on May 13.
The Community Eligibility program, which is expected to begin August 2014, will provide the more than 18,500 students enrolled at HCISD with free breakfast and lunch every day of the school year. Keeping health literacy a focus and taking into consideration student demographics present at HCISD, the goal was to provide students with nutritionally sound meals at no cost that would promote engaged learning and subsequent achievement, said Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos.
“For our students to be successful, they need to start each day with their best foot forward,” said Dr. Cavazos. “Embarking on their educational journeys’ with a nutritional meal at no cost allows our students to remain focused on the academic rigor and stay better set for achievement inside and outside the classroom. It also allows our parents to rest assure that when their children are at our district’s campuses they will receive the nutrition they need to develop as healthy students and individuals.”
Under the program’s reimbursement formula, the district is expected to at least break even on food service costs.
“Our children are our most valuable asset, and by providing them with free nutritional meals throughout the day, we are providing them with the best programs and services possible while remaining fiscally responsible to our stakeholders,” said Board of Trustee President Greg Powers.
The Community Eligibility program is part of the Healthy, Hunger –Free Kids Act of 2010, which included community eligibility as a new option to allow high-poverty schools to feed more students and focus on meal quality. To utilize this program, a school district must have at least one school with 40% or more of its students certified to receive free meals without application. Currently, 77.5% of students at HCISD are classified as economically disadvantaged with more than 75% receiving free or reduced lunch.
“This program will benefit every student in our district,” said Judy Baker, Director of Child Nutrition. “Implementing this provision will eliminate the burden of meal applications for our families and allow every student to have the benefits of nutritionally sound meals each school day.”