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Des Moines Public Schools Expands Free Meal Program

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Des Moines Public Schools is once again expanding its free meals program called Community Eligibility Provision.

”It is troubling for students to concentrate when their tummies are rumbling,” said Chad Taylor, Chef with Des Moines Public Schools. ”The school is a great opportunity for them to receive meals.”

For Des Moines this is a major issue. Roughly 75% of all students qualify for free lunch.

To qualify, though, it takes time and the district is finding that more and more families who qualify aren’t going through the process. So instead of letting students rack up big debts, they just got rid of that extra step.

The program eliminates a step for students who need meal assistance. In the past, some families have been unwilling or unable to apply for free or reduced cost meals for a variety of reasons including awareness of the program, language barriers, social stigmas, and challenges with accurate completion of forms.

”Families are really participating with us. Our participation rates for both breakfast and lunch continue to climb each year,” said Taylor.

Schools participating in CEP will no longer be required to collect Free and Reduced Price Meals applications to determine income eligibility for free meals. Every student at the school receives no-cost meals.

“Administratively, we really save a lot of dollars through not having to process the free and reduced applications at so many school sites,” said Taylor.

Taylor estimates the program will save the district $100,000 this year.

The program, funded largely by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and in small part by DMPS, covers 100% of the cost of breakfast and lunch for all students at schools identified as having a high number of students living in poverty.

“We carry on a theme of taking care of our students, and to do that and have them have an education level they can study at, they do need to have a full tummy in the morning,” said Taylor.