Free meal program starts with new school year in Minnesota
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Minnesota schools are familiar with the state’s new free meal program. It’s similar to a temporary program in place during the pandemic. But this time it’s sticking around.
Free meals for all is back in Minnesota schools after the state legislature pushed through a permanent plan earlier this year. At Luverne Public Schools, Superintendent Craig Oftedahl said it’s been an almost seamless transition back to the program.
“We had this a couple of years ago during the pandemic. Then last year, it was not in place. Now this year, it’s back in place,” Oftedahl said.
School districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program will receive reimbursement from the state of Minnesota. The program allows students at those schools to receive one breakfast and one lunch each day at no cost for them.
At both breakfast and lunch, students are required to select at least three items to count as a meal. That includes at least a half cup of fruits for vegetables. Second meals or snacks are not covered by the program, and will need to be paid for by families.
But Oftedahl said it does come with an important message for families; that they should still fill out the state’s Application for Educational Benefits. Because it’s been tied to free or reduced meals in the past, he said the district is worried families won’t fill out the form.
“Some other funding streams are linked to that application, and some other grant opportunities that we would have access to are linked to that application. The more people we can get to fill out that application, usually the better it is for a school district,” Oftedahl said. “Because everybody heard that it’s free, they don’t have to fill anything out. But there are other pieces to that puzzle. Compensatory funding, some grants and different funding streams.”
So the district is pushing families to still fill out the form, as it provides addition support to schools and students alike.
“We want accuracy, and we want to help those that need the help. Some of that funding is for students that do need the help,” Oftedahl said.
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