CCS district to continue offering free lunches for 2021-2022 year


Christian Ledbetter

Cafeteria Worker Debbie Brown prepares a vegetable a la carte food choice. The CCS district will continue with the free meal plan for all students for the 2021-22 school year.

Darshini Shankar

Q&A With Food Service Manager Holly Huepenbecker-Hull

How will the free meal plan continue next year?

“(The free meal plan) is going to continue the same as it was this year. Since the beginning of the school year, all the meals for all students are free as long as they take a full reimbursable lunch. A full reimbursable lunch is (an) entree, a fruit or veggie, and they can take a milk. So they can take two fruits, two veggies and a milk if they want to, but as long as they take an entree and a fruit or veggie it’s considered a reimbursable lunch. A la carte items such as cookies, chips (and) drinks still (cost) extra.”

Why did CCS choose to continue this plan for next year?

“Really it’s CCS on the small scale, but (on) the bigger scale, this is a USDA relief project. We received funding from the federal government as long as we are on the school lunch program. So as long as we are giving kids full reimbursable (lunches), we receive funding from the federal government (through) a USDA relief program for K-12 schools.”

Cafeteria Worker Marcella Ford washes a cucumber. The CCS district will continue offering free meals next year due to the USDA relief project giving it the funding to keep the program going. (Christian Ledbetter)

How many students are currently using the free meal plan?

“Today, (on April 30), in the main cafeteria, we (gave) 572 full lunches and that doesn’t include a la carte items. So comparing (that to) the past, on a big day last year was more like about 1,200. Granted we have half the kids right now because of the hybrid schedule so we’re expecting that to go up next year but it’s definitely less than it has been in the past. But with all the kids back next year we’re hoping that it really goes up.”

Q&A With Jennifer McFarland, Director of Food and Nutrition Services 

What is the free lunch program? 

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a broad range of flexibilities to allow school meal programs across the country to return to serving healthy meals in Fall 2021. Several meal service flexibilities, including free breakfast, lunch and after school snacks are now extended through June 30, 2022.”

How successful was the program in the past year? 

“USDA answered the call to help schools nationwide serve high quality meals as children safely returned to their regular routines. This action also increased the reimbursement rate to school food service programs offsetting the increased costs caused by the pandemic and ensuring schools would have the appropriate funds to serve healthy foods to students. It’s been a win-win for kids, parents and schools.”