‘This is a tremendous help’

KEKAHA — The Hawaii Department of Education is giving schools more options when it comes to providing free meals to its students.

Kekaha Elementary School is one of 23 schools across the state that was chosen to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP program, according to a release from HIDOE.

Kekaha Elementary School is the first school on Kauai to be part of the CEP program, said Derek Inoshita, communication specialist for HIDOE.

“We are very appreciative in having Kekaha Elementary School be part of the expansion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture free meal program,” said Bill Arakaki, Kauai Complex Area Superintendent. “The CEP program allows Kekaha School to serve free meals to all students.”

The expansion of the program to Kauai is wonderful, Arakaki added.

“This is a tremendous help to the families attending Kekaha and the Westside community. We must thank all that were involved in making this a reality for Kekaha Elementary and other schools in the State of Hawaii,” he said.

The CEP program, which is funded by USDA, allows a school district or single school to serve free meals to all students, even if it doesn’t qualify for free or reduced-price lunch reimbursements, the release said.

To qualify for CEP, a minimum of 40 percent of the district or school’s students must be eligible for free or reduced-price lunch through the National School Lunch Program.

At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, 65 percent of the students at Kekaha Elementary School participated in the free or reduced lunch program, Arakaki said.

HIDOE pays an average of $5.50 a meal. That includes food costs, labor and utilities. Currently, the USDA reimburses the state $3.85 for students on the free meal plan and 40 cents for students who pay for a meal, the release said.

Additionally, HIDOE charges $2.50 for elementary school means, which is a total of $2.90 in recouped cost for the state.

Now, schools enrolled in the CEP program will qualify for the $3.85 reimbursement.

“Last year, we were able to launch this pilot project at seven schools to establish its impacts on finances and staffing,” said Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson, Office of School Facilities and Support Services. “The response was positive and we are happy that this year we will be able to expand the program to all counties and include several new whole school complexes. This USDA program allows us to feed more students, for free, and do so in a way that does not increase the cost to the state.”

The seven schools in the pilot program were:

• Kaunakakai Elementary School, Molokai

• Kilohana Elementary School, Molokai

• Maunaloa Elementary School, Molokai

• Molokai Middle School, Molokai

• Molokai High School, Molokai

• Mountain View Elementary School, Hawaii

• Linapuni Elementary School, Oahu

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