EastpointeSeptember 26, 2012
EDPS offers free breakfast and lunch to all students
By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer
EASTPOINTE — Students enrolled in East Detroit Public Schools no longer have to worry about forgetting their lunch money, because this year, lunch is free.
Breakfast is free too. And both meals are free to all students — regardless of income, every school day, all year.
The free eats are made possible through the state-administered Community Eligibility Option, or CEO program. The program uses federal funds to reimburse participating districts or schools for the cost of the free breakfasts and lunches for all students in kindergarten through 12th-grade. The program, which began at the start of the school year, will run for four school years.
There are no financial eligibility requirements or forms required. Lunch will be the same as always, except at the end of the lunch line they don’t have to pay for their base meal.
“Miscellaneous items or a la carte items can still be purchased by the students, but the base meal that has all the nutritional components and meets the health regulations provided by the district will be available to every student for free,” said Justin Washington, the executive director of human resource operations for the district.
The only requirement is that the student chooses at least three items at lunch and at least one of those items is a fruit or vegetable.
In the weeks since its launch in East Detroit Public Schools, the program has seen a great reception, with more students than ever opting to eat school-provided meals.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of kids that come in at breakfast time; previously, breakfast was only available to students with free or reduced lunch, and very few of them came — maybe there was a stigma with it, but now that it’s open to everyone, it’s been packed,” said Nicole Kirby, the assistant principal of ninth-grade students at East Detroit High School.
“If you come in (at) 7:10 a.m., this place is packed,” she added. “It’s a really good thing, too, because for a lot of them, these might be the only meals they’re getting in the day.”
Students at the high school seem equally enthusiastic about the free lunch — with options. At the high school, students have the choice between three free lunch options. On Sept. 20, main meal options consisted of a cheeseburger, taco salad or fettuccini Alfredo.
Rieonna Brown, a junior, opted for the Alfredo with a real fruit smoothie — which qualifies as the fruit requirement — and a chocolate milk. To her, the program makes sense.
“I believe it’s great,” Brown said. “A lot of kids don’t get enough food at home, and now at least they get it at school.”
There’s only one thing she doesn’t like about the new program.
“I think they should bring the fries back everyday,” she said. “We used to have them everyday, but now we only have them on Mondays. Other students agree. We all love the free lunch, but we want the fries back.”
For Gail Simmons, whose son is a senior in the district, the new program is a big help financially.
“I was thrilled when I found out,” Simmons said. “We didn’t qualify for free or reduced lunch, and it was a good $20 a week, at least, in paying for lunches and extras. They used to only provide milk with the lunches, and my son doesn’t like milk, so we had to give him extra for water; now they provide water, too. It’s great.”
“The kids all get it, even the younger ones, like, ‘I get to eat for free — yea,’ and the parents appreciate it too,” said Cindy Madison, the executive assistant to the superintendent. “It’s a good program, one the community should know about and support, because it’s benefiting the students here in our community.”