September 27, 2022

Free school meals no longer provided for all students except at Emerson Hough, WEST Academy

School district encourages families to submit free and reduced applications

Although free meals for all students in all buildings of the Newton Community School District will not be available this school year, families are encouraged to fill out applications for free and reduced meals for their kids.

Free meals will no longer be provided to every student in every building of the Newton Community School District this upcoming school year, which has prompted staff to encourage Cardinal families to fill out applications that determine whether their children may be eligible for reduced lunch and breakfast.

Julie Miller, food service supervisor for Newton schools, said families will now have to fill out free and reduced applications, which are available on the school’s website www.newton.k12.ia.us by selecting the “district” tab, then “departments” and then clicking on “food service.” The applications will be found on that page.

Applications cannot be filled out and submitted online, but they can be filled out electronically and then sent to Miller’s email address millerj@newton.k12.ia.us. Paper copies are available at the E.J.H. Beard Administration Center and all school buildings in the district. Only one application is needed per household.

Families can mail their completed applications to Newton High School ATTN: Julie Miller, 800 E. Fourth St. S., Newton, IA 50208. They may also bring them to the district administration office from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or to any school building office secretary.

When the applications are processed, students will either have to pay for their breakfast and lunch, get reduced prices for the meals or pay nothing.

“The best way for us to know that is to have parents fill out the application,” Miller said. “You never know you might qualify and you just have no idea. So it’s great for their meals but it’s also great for their fees. It also helps the district’s Title 1 program. So it’s a win all the way across the board if we can get people to apply.”

Currently, the full price of breakfast at the Newton school district is $1.50 at the elementary schools, $1.75 at the middle school and high school and $2 for adults. Lunch costs $2.80 at the elementary schools, $2.90 at the middle school, $3 at the high school and $4.13 for adults.

Emerson Hough Elementary School and WEST Academy will still be offering free meals because the buildings qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture program Community Eligibility Provision. But the remainder of the Newton school buildings will be returning to pre-pandemic meal practices.

For the past few years, the Newton school district allowed all of its enrolled students free breakfast and lunch. Even after school was out, the district was able to feed families at no cost with its popular grab-n-go meals. Miller said this past June the school was still able to deliver grab-n-go meals.

Grab-n-go meals were available at the high school, Emerson Hough and Berg Middle School. Parents or students could come to the buildings and pick up their meal packages that would provide three days of worth of food per child. Miller said there were “lots and lots and lots and lots” of meals in June.

However, in July, the USDA put an end to grab-n-go meals. Instead, Newton schools would have to resort to on-site meals, which means staff have to cook and serve food in the cafeteria. Miller said students were utilizing the on-site meals, but the participation overall was much lower than the grab-n-go program.

“It’s much easier for people to just come and pick up a meal rather than just come into the building and sit down and eat,” Miller said. “In August, for the first few days, we just provided meals because now we’re full on ‘back-to-school, here we go’ and we gotta get the kitchens ready and stuff.”

Still, the school district served up roughly 30,000 meals this summer.

During the pandemic every building was offering free meals. Miller said the federal government will not renew the waiver that allows students to eat for free. To Miller, every student needs to have free meals; it is a huge benefit to the kids and their families. Research even says school meals are important.

“They keep them healthy and they keep them energetic and they pay attention in class and they get better scores on their tests and they’re not in trouble so much,” Miller said. “There’s just so much good stuff.”

Newton schools are also selected to participate in the free fruit and vegetable program, which offers free fresh produce snacks to all the elementary students in the district. The program is active four days a week, and the produce is served separate from breakfast and lunch times.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.