District offers free breakfast, lunch for all students

STOCK PHOTO - Child eating school lunch in cafeteria

The parents of Longview ISD students can rest easy knowing their children will be fed at school, regardless of whether they remember to pack a lunch, thanks to the federal Community Eligibility Provision [CEP] program.

As part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Community Eligibility Provision allows qualifying schools that serve populations with high poverty rates to provide free breakfast and lunch.

Ms. Phyllis Dozier, LISD Director of Child Nutrition, said the program has been in place at Longview ISD since 2019, and "will continue to benefit our students, our families, and the district."

"When the USDA introduced the Community Eligibility Provision in 2016, Longview ISD didn't qualify for 100 percent reimbursement, making it financially impractical to implement the program at that time," said Ms. Phyllis Dozier, LISD Director of Child Nutrition. "However, the USDA later included Medicaid to benefit eligible students, raising our reimbursement percentage and allowing us to qualify for full reimbursement. It's important to note that this program doesn't consider students eligible for free/reduced meals based on income."

The CEP formula multiplies the percentage of “directly certified” students (those on SNAP or TANF) by a so-called “multiplying factor” of 1.6. The result is the percentage at which a school will be reimbursed for meals. A school would not receive 100 percent reimbursement for meals from CEP unless 62.5 percent of its student population was directly certified.

Superintendent Dr. James Wilcox said programs like this are beneficial for some of Longview ISD's most vulnerable families.

"A child at school should never have to worry about whether or not they're going to be able to eat a good breakfast or lunch," he said. "Too many of our students face challenges outside the classroom that impede their ability to succeed in the classroom. We can’t expect our students to focus on learning if they’re hungry and don’t know where their next meal is coming from."

Currently, nearly 90 percent of students in Longview ISD qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

The CEP program eliminates the process of collecting household applications to determine eligibility for free or reduced meals. Schools are selected based on the number of students' families receiving benefits, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Non-CEP schools are required to charge students for paid meals at a price that is, on average, equal to the difference between free meal reimbursement from the federal government and the paid meal reimbursement, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture website.