For the first time ever, students enrolled in the Denair Unified School District will receive three free meals each day starting this school year.
Nearly half of the roughly 1,300 students at the district’s four campuses meet requirements for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision, which allows schools located in low-income areas to provide free breakfast, lunch and an after-school snack to all students. A district qualifies for the program if more than 40 percent of families in its attendance area are enrolled in Medi-Cal, and students also qualify if they are certified as homeless, runaway, migrant, foster or are enrolled in a federally-funded Head Start program.
In addition to free, nutritious meals for students, there are many other benefits to the program, DUSD Superintendent Terry Metzger said, including a stigma-free environment for both kids in the lunch line and their parents at home.
“It helps fight that stigmatization of the ‘free lunch’ line,” Metzger said. “There are some families that need assistance but feel like there are people who might be needier than them who can benefit from the program, even though they’re in a tough situation, or they just don’t want to apply to the school district and have to say their kids need extra help.
“It protects the family’s privacy and makes sure that all of our kids can get what they need so that they’re ready to learn.”
Denair’s participation and the federal and state reimbursements will save the district an estimated $5,000 this school year in food subsidies. Prior to receiving funding, school lunches in Denair cost $2.35 per student, per day.
“For Denair it’s pretty important because we’ve been in financial stress for many years,” Metzger said. “The district has made many changes during that time, saving money, cutting corners here and there, and this is just something else where we can say we’re saving a bit of money.”
Free breakfast and lunch will be served at all of Denair’s cafeterias — Denair Elementary Charter Academy, Denair Middle School and Denair High School. Denair Charter Academy will also have access to free meals at the elementary or high school cafeteria and after-school snacks for all students will be available at the middle school cafeteria.
“We all know that kids who have their basic needs met are better learners,” Metzger said. “That’s the bottom line.”
For more information, visit www.culinarycoyote.com or call the Food Service Department at 209-632-7514.