Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thirteen TPS Schools to Receive Free Meals

Parents of students at 13 TPS schools were happy to hear of a new federally-funded meal program that will provide breakfast and lunch to all students-regardless of their income- at no cost. Topeka Public Schools is the largest district in the state to take part in the new program, which launches this school year.

Niki Jahnke, General Director of Child Nutrition Services for Topeka Public Schools, is excited that all of the school applications she submitted were approved for the program. “My ultimate goal was to make sure every child eats breakfast and lunch, and to stop the stigma of free and reduced meals in the lunch lines.” With this program, all students, regardless of their income, will be provided with two nutritious meals every school day, ensuring that hunger won’t interfere with learning.

The following schools will be receiving free meals this year:
Chase Middle School
Eisenhower Middle School
Robinson Middle School
Highland Park Central Elementary
Meadows Elementary
Lowman Hill Elementary
Pine Ridge Prep
Quincy Elementary
Ross Elementary
Scott Elementary
Shaner Elementary
Stout Elementary
Williams Elementary

These schools were selected because of the percentage of student who are directly certified, meaning students who are homeless, children of migrant workers, receive food assistance, are foster children, attend Head Start, or receive Temporary Assistance to Families (TAF). Janke says she hopes to add more schools to the list in the coming years. However, to do so the district would need documentation of directly certified students. Officials in each school can help identify these students, increasing the odds of adding schools to the program.

Students not attending one of the 13 free meals schools can still qualify for free and reduced lunch.

This program is not just beneficial to the students, but to the district as well. The school district will save time and money throughout the school year.

-Hours of paperwork to process free and reduced meal applications will be cut.
- For delinquent meal accounts, the district’s Nutrition Office sends three notification letters, followed by one from the Business Office, ending with the account being sent to a collections agency. This program will eliminate labor and costs associated with this process.
-Cash and check meal payments will no longer have to be processed at schools, and school officials will no longer have to leave their schools to make bank deposits.
-The district will save on postage for the thousands of applications and hundreds of collections letters that are sent every year.
There has been some concern that providing free meals to students was wasteful because students don’t care for the nutritional standards introduced in 2012. However, new research suggests that students seem to be acquiring a taste for the healthier fare and are, in fact, cleaning their plates.

http://www.businessinsider.com/r-kids-are-accepting-healthier-school-lunches-survey-2014-30

Janke echoes that sentiment, saying that after some trial and error, food manufacturers have modified their products to meet the new standards and school menus have been modified to offer more selection. These efforts have led to tastier meals and happier students.

We are excited to offer this program to our students, and are looking forward to a wonderful new school year!