Deer Park School District participates in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In response to pandemic-related economic pressures these past two years, school meals were provided at no cost for all students – regardless of eligibility. Free meals for all ended this past June when federal funding for school lunches went back to pre-pandemic levels.
However, while federal funding for universal free lunch has expired, the Washington State legislature passed House Bill 1878 during the 2022 legislative session. This new legislation builds on the Hunger-Free Schools Act of 2020. The requirements of this new HB 1878 are effective starting the 2022–23 school year.
Under the provisions of this new law, more schools and school districts are able to qualify for universal free lunch. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), permits eligible schools to provide meal service to all students at no charge, regardless of economic status. A school may elect to access CEP if at least 40% of its students are “directly certified,” or otherwise identified for free meals through means other than household applications (for example, students directly certified through SNAP). You can learn more about the CEP program HERE.
What does this mean for families in Deer Park?
- First, we’re thrilled that breakfast will continue to be free for ALL students in Deer Park who wish to participate.
- Next, both Deer Park’s preschool program (ECEAP) and Deer Park Middle School have met eligibility requirements to offer free lunch to ALL students enrolled at those schools. The CEP designation lasts for four years, so we’re excited to share that students enrolled at these two schools will enjoy breakfast AND lunch at no cost through the 2025-26 school year.
- Finally, pricing for the school lunch program will return to pre-pandemic levels at all other facilities, and of course, lunch will continue to be available at no cost or at a reduced price for qualifying students. This means that free and reduced paperwork must be filled out and submitted within 30 days of the start of the school year to avoid a gap in the benefit. As was the case prior to the provision of universal free meals during the pandemic, families must reapply each school year to access free or reduced pricing.
We strongly encourage families to check the income guidelines for access to free or reduced meal prices and promptly fill out and submit the application. In addition to the benefits related to school lunch, school districts also receive state-provided Learning Assistance Funds and federal Title I funds according to the percentage of students. These additional resources allow our schools to hire additional staff and provide increased services to kids!
For many families with children who are returning to paid lunch, you have two options for adding money to your child’s lunch account. Parents can either log into Skyward Family Access and add money using a credit/debit card or you can send money to school with your children (the money should be turned into the main office). Of course, parents can also stop by the main office of the school their children attend at any time to add money to a student’s lunch account.
If you have any questions about nutrition services in Deer Park School District, please reach out to our school offices or call Deer Park’s Nutrition Services Dept. at (509) 464-5545.