Lake Health District’s (LHD) Community Health Improvement Partnership (CHIP) meetings have discussed over the last few months a program that would make school meals available for free to all students.

Community Eligible Provisions (CEP) is a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded program that provides free breakfast and lunch for all students at eligible schools.

Although CEP is a possibility for Lake County, there are a few hurdles that need to be met before the program can be brought into Lakeview schools.

Lake County School District #7 (LCSD#7) Business Mgr. Janet Melsness outlined that as of April 30, 377 of LCSD#7’s 757 kids, about 49.8 percent, were eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Although this is above CEP’s eligibility criteria that 40 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, the logistics involved in providing free lunches for every student are somewhat complex. The school district will need to hire an additional cook, revise lunch schedules and increase the amount of kitchen equipment in order to accommodate more kids eating school lunches.

LCSD#7 Supt. Will Cahill said the budget and schedule are already set for the 2019-2020 school year, but the district is open to exploring CEP for future school years.

“At this point in time we cannot effectively and efficiently integrate the CEP program to serve our students,” he said.

Parents and caregivers need to fill out their free and reduced-price eligibility forms as usual for the upcoming school year. The school district will send out reminder letters to families in early August. Families may complete the form online any time that month. They will be reminded to fill out the eligibility form during school registration, which takes place the week of August 12.

“We ask everyone to fill it out, but they can opt out of it,” District Data Coord. Lonnie Chavez said.

For individuals without access to a computer, the school’s computer labs will be open during registration week, and on-site staff will be able to help people complete the form. Chavez said using a computer to complete the form is much easier than using a cell phone.

CHIP coordinator Arvinder Singh and FoodCorps service member Brooke Kelleher have been investigating CEP for several months. They discovered that North Lake School is eligible as well as LCSD#7.

For the schools to opt in to CEP, district staff must go through an application process and contact Oregon Department of Education’s School Nutrition Programs.

For more information about CEP, call Singh at 541-947-2114 ext. 198 or 425-999-6345.

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