Starting this fall, all Detroit Public Schools students in grades K-12 will receive breakfast, lunch and snacks at no charge in an effort to ensure all children receive healthy meals, regardless of income.
The effort is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Option Program, which will be piloted starting with the 2011-2012 school year. Michigan was one of three states selected to participate in the pilot program. Schools and Districts in Michigan may participate if at least 40 percent of their students are entitled to public assistance.
“One of the primary goals of this program is to eliminate the stigma that students feel when they get a free lunch, as opposed to paying cash,” said DPS Chief Operating Officer Mark Schrupp. “Some students would skip important meals to avoid being identified as low-income. Now, all students will walk through a lunch line and not have to pay. Low-income students will not be easily identifiable and will be less likely to skip meals.”
In the past, students from low-income households were required to fill out Meal Benefit Application forms, which collected valuable income data. Those forms are no longer required, but DPS is still requesting that families complete a Supplemental Student Services Survey to ensure that children, schools and the district will continue to receive millions of dollars in benefits and resources from the state and federal governments, as well as private grants.
Among the benefits and services that are still dependent on the district collecting income data are:
- Free tutoring and afterschool programs
- Extra teacher aides and other specialized staff for classrooms
- Classroom technology, such as computers, white boards and the Internet
- DOT bus cards and other transportation assistance
- Free summer school and summer enrichment programs
- Free college testing services and waiver of college application fees
- Field trips, field days and other academic enrichment activities
- Parent involvement and LSCO funding
- Career and technical education opportunities
Detroit Public Schools is working with the Michigan Department of Education to develop a model documentation form that will be used across the state.
The Community Eligibility Option is among the early reforms enacted under President Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which authorized the USDA to select up to three states to test the option in School Year 2011-12. The option will be offered to more states in successive years, and will be available to all states beginning School Year 2014-15.
To select the states that are participating, the USDA looked at the prevalence of high-poverty areas and strong Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program performance. Ten states were chosen to apply for the initial year, and Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan were ultimately selected to roll out the pilot program.