On the first day of the 2022 school year, Henry Clay students received a document informing them that the USDA pandemic waivers had expired. These waivers allowed schools to serve lunch at no cost for two years and were established out of response to COVID-19.
“Only students, who qualify for ‘free and reduced-price (F/R) meals’ or those who attend a CEP school, will receive free meals,” the FCPS document said.
According to the Hunger Task Force website, CEP (Community Eligibility Provision) allows certain schools to provide lunch and breakfast at no charge without the need of a specific form.
“Those schools that are CEP automatically get free lunch,” HC Family Resource Coordinator, Ciera Bowman said.
Non-CEP schools are now charging for lunch and breakfast. High schools, Lafayette and Paul Laurence Dunbar, join HC in this procedure.
“If you’re not CEP, like us, you have to apply for it,” Bowman said.
CEP schools are determined by the amount of students on free or reduced lunch status.
“For high school I believe it’s around seventy percent,” Bowman said. “Over the summer we were short seventeen people of being qualified to be a CEP school.”
Despite not meeting the criteria, Bowman continues to encourage students to fill the fee waiver form.
“Even if you don’t eat lunch, fill out the application,” Bowman said. “Not only will it help you in the long run, but it helps everybody else.”
Messages sent home to families list the benefits of Free or Reduced Lunch status, such as, fee waivers for college admissions, state exams, and much more.
“If we show that we have more families that are on a certain income level, we get more benefits,” Bowman said. “The Youth Service Center gets more benefits, and in return it helps you all. It’s really important for people to fill it out even if they don’t eat lunch everyday or they don’t like the cafeteria food. It has more benefits to it.”