Free meals for more students

The Hawaii State Department of Education is expanding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s free meal program to schools that qualify. A school must have a minimum of 40 percent or more of its students eligible for free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program.

The expansion adds 22 schools to the 30 that have been under the provision for the past two years. On Kauai, Kekaha Elementary has qualified for the Community Eligibility Provision for the past couple of years.

“We are thankful that Kekaha Elementary continues to be part of the CEP. This will enable all students at Kekaha to have free meals,” said Complex-Area Superintendent Bill Arakaki.

On Kauai and Niihau, nearly 50 percent of students eat school lunch. Reduced rate lunch is 40 cents, compared to the normal $2.50 for younger students and $2.75 for high schoolers.

For the 2016-2017 school year, 1,277 students on Kauai received free lunch while another 914 students received reduced lunch — a total of 2,191 students.

The CEP program allows a school district, a group of schools or a single school to serve free meals to students even if they do not qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch reimbursements.

In a press release, Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said that the program has already helped over 18,000 students across the state in the past two years, and this CEP expansion will help an additional 8,500 students.

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