By Linda Dillman
A federal grant is providing a free breakfast and lunch for all students in kindergarten through 12th grade throughout the Hamilton Local Schools district.
The service started Sept. 8 and is funded through the USDA National School Lunch Program. It continues until the end of the year or when USDA grant funds are exhausted. After that, only students verified to receive free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch will continue to do so.
“The program provides meals, not only for students who qualify for free or reduced meals, but also for each and every one of our students,” said Hamilton Schools Treasurer Adam Collier.
According to Collier, the district applied for the grant last spring and is reimbursed for both breakfast and lunch meals served to students during the funding period. There is no change in the components of the free meals.
“We participate in the National School Lunch Program and follow the meal pattern for lunch and breakfast. Grant money would not affect the meal pattern regulations,” said Mary Anne Hillerich, food services coordinator.
Hillerich said the four district school buildings normally serve approximately 2,000 students for lunch and 1,400 for breakfast. There are 3,000 students enrolled in the district.
The regular cost for lunch at the high school is $2.75, at the middle school it is $2.50, the cost at the intermediate building is $2.25 and the price for a lunch at the elementary school is $2.
Lunch cost savings for a family of four with two students in the middle school is approximately $100 a month.
According to Collier, during the preceding fiscal year—July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020—the district received $971,565 in federal assistance for its free/reduced lunch program. Hillerich said 72 percent of the student population received free or reduced meals for the 2019 through 2020 school year.
“So far, we are at 58 percent for this school year, but we are still receiving applications from families,” said Hillerich.
In addition to cafeteria meals, hot lunches and go-to breakfasts are delivered via daily buses at different locations throughout the district. A cafeteria worker rides alongside the bus driver to help deliver and keep track of students picking up meals.