Central Texas schools offering free breakfast, lunch this year

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 7:06 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2021 at 10:27 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The Central Texas Food Bank said in McLennan and Bell County, one in four kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

That number increases to one in three in Freestone and Limestone counties. Derrick Chubbs, president and CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank, said that need is what makes universal food programs during the school year so vital.

Chubbs said they are still distributing food to more than 300,000 people a month, which is higher than pre-pandemic levels.

This year, many schools across Central Texas are offering free breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of family income.

The meal program is possible through the United States Department of Agriculture, which extended the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option due to the pandemic.

Chubbs said there are still so many changes happening due to the pandemic, and free meals for everyone means no one goes hungry.

“Until we get our arms around the facts and the numbers in the true fallout post-pandemic, I think making this available to everyone, is basically a catch all, you don’t lose anyone,” Chubbs said. “And I think that’s extremely important.”

Waco ISD is one of the districts offering free breakfast and lunch. Cliff Reece, food service director for the district, said Waco has had free breakfast for many years.

This is the fourth year the district has offered free lunch, and that’s due to the percentage of children in the district that qualify based on income levels.

Reece said getting food to students in need is the most important thing. Sometimes, Reece said there will be students who are just above the income line to qualify for free or reduced lunch, and the universal meal program solves that issue.

“When you talk about what used to be a reduced, and you were talking 30 cents of breakfast 40 cents at lunch, and you extend that over 170 Serving days, and both meals and multiple kids that’s a lot of money for a family,” Reece said. “I think opens up great opportunity to provide nutrition to those kids. And I think it takes a lot of weight off of those parents.”

Reece and Chubbs said the universal free meals program also gets rid of any distinction between who can afford lunch and who can’t, which is a positive thing.

“Sometimes that becomes unfortunately, an issue where one child knows when child’s this and that,” Reece said. “That’s not a good issue, so that takes that completely out of the picture. Every child comes through the line and in the same manner everyone receives their meals in the same manner.”

Waco ISD is not the only district offering free meals. Killeen, Belton, Temple and Midway ISD are just some of the other districts offering meals this year.

The universal free meal program for districts across the state is just for this year. At this time, income requirements will go back in place for next school year.

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