I hope you are enjoying a restful (and fun) summer vacation. Hard to believe we are only about four weeks away from the launch of the 2018-19 school year.
I am so excited to share with all of you that beginning with the start of school on Aug. 8, ALL Palm Springs Unified School District students will be receiving FREE breakfast and lunch. That’s right….ALL students!
The District has amended its policy for serving meals to students under the National School Lunch/School Breakfast program. Now, through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), we are able to provide a non-pricing meal option to all of our students. The program began in 2010 and then was expanded nationally in 2014. This is the first year, however, that we were able to qualify for participation based on the percentage of our families directly certified as receiving government assistance. In fact, because we were able to reach over 62 percent, we are able to claim reimbursement of 100 percent on the meals served in our program. The PSUSD Board of Education has had this as a goal for some time, and we are glad that we are now eligible for this provision as it will benefit all of our students.
It’s a simple fact that students who are hungry cannot learn at optimum levels. Feeding all of our students nutritious breakfasts and lunches ensures that they have the fuel they need throughout the day to learn. Providing this service reduces food insecurity, obesity rates and poor health among our low-income students – which represents the majority of our children. Additionally the high nutrition standards of school meals is having a positive impact on student food selection and consumption, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Reimbursable meals must provide no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat. Few packed lunches from home meet the National School Lunch Program nutritional standards.
Children struggling with hunger experience higher rates of behavioral, emotional and mental health and academic issues than those who are adequately fed. These children are also more likely to be absent or tardy for class, have attention problems, be suspended, repeat a grade or require mental health counseling. We, as educators, want to do all we can to combat these issues for as many of our students as possible, and being able to ensure that every one of our students has the opportunity to eat a nutritious breakfast and lunch each day is a major component we are now able to fulfill.
While completing a free or reduced lunch application is no longer necessary with the CEP, we still require parents to complete “an education benefit form,” as the statistical information is needed to ensure that all of our classrooms receive the maximum amount of funding possible. Only one form per household is required. The form can be completed online at https://benefitform.psusd.us/. Completion of this form is an enrollment requirement for the 2017-18 school year, and we appreciate our families’ cooperation.
We hope that all of our students will take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a nutritious breakfast and lunch at their home school every day. Should you have any questions about the CEP or PSUSD nutrition program, please contact our Nutritional Services Department at (760) 322-4117.