Louise ISD students will receive free breakfast and lunch in the upcoming school year, district leaders decided Monday, under a coronavirus-era feeding program being offered through federal funding.
“Based on the numbers I saw, we’re going to get reimbursed more than we’ve been getting reimbursed,” LISD Superintendent Garth Oliver said.
The district plans to file a waiver to participate in the Seamless Summer Option feeding program before Kindergarten and Pre-K registration begins in early August. SSO is a waiver that allows schools to offer free lunches, like many choose to during summer break, via federal coronavirus aid programs through June 30, 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Should LISD be approved for the program, the district would be reimbursed at $4.31 per lunch and $2.46 per breakfast served. Under the current lunch program, the district is reimbursed about $.32 for paid meals, $.40 for reduced and $2.51 for free meals, according to estimates from LISD Business Manager Pam Wagner.
Wagner gave the LISD school board more information on the SSO program at Monday night’s trustee meeting. Wagner initially discussed SSO with trustees in June.
Students will get one free breakfast and one free lunch daily, under the new program. This does not include a la carte items like cookies and chips or additional entrees.
“They get one meal,” Wagner said. “So if they want an extra burger, they want an extra burrito, or something like that, that’s all extras … that they (students) pay for.”
The 2020-2021 lunch program offered full price breakfast for students at $1.75 or $.30 reduced price. Lunches cost $3.05 at full price for PreK - eighth grade students, $3.20 at full price for high schoolers and $.40 at reduced price for all students.
In 2020-2021, LISD budgeted $280,000 for the cafeteria budget. Under the free and reduced lunch program, $172,000 in federal reimbursement was received. Snacks accounted for an additional $4,800 in revenue.
“So what is the negative of being an SSO (district)?” Trustee Chad Hajovsky asked.
A negative aspect of the program is that it’s only available for the 2021-2022 school year, at least for now, Wagner said.
“So the following year, unless they continue the program, we would go back to the (free and reduced program),” she added.
The SSO presentation was not an action item and the board did not vote on whether to establish SSO at LISD.
District leaders expect cafeteria costs to increase in the upcoming school year due to more students eating and increased food and fuel supply prices.
“I have a feeling we’re going to have to budget more than $280 (thousand) in the cafeteria just if we do increases for salaries,” Wagner said. “Plus food costs and that sort of thing.”
Just like under the previous lunch program, how much LISD is reimbursed for lunches and breakfasts depends on how many students actually eat in the cafeteria. If cafeteria costs go over what is budgeted, the extra money will have to be paid by the district’s general fund balance, Wagner said.
For the district to be approved for SSO and continue to get the traditional amount of Title I funding, district parents will need to fill out a form with information on their income.
“If we don’t get those forms filled out, then our Title I money goes down,” Wagner said.
In April and May 2020, LISD offered free lunches while the district was closed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The program was discontinued when the school year ended due to lack of demand.
The last time LISD offered summer break meals was in 2010.