Harlan Independent Schools to provide free meals

Published 9:54 am Friday, July 29, 2022

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The Harlan Independent School District will again provide all students free meals, including breakfast, lunch, and after-school snacks, during the upcoming school year.

According to a press release, Harlan Independent Schools will participate in National School Lunch and Breakfast programs. All schools in the district will participate, including Sunshine Preschool, Harlan Elementary, Harlan Middle School, and Harlan High School. The students will not be required to submit a household application, nor are there any fees required to participate in the meal programs.

Emily Clem, Director of Student Services at Harlan Independent Schools, gave some background on the program.

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“This program is called the CEP program,” Clem said. “It’s a federal program that allows all students in a school that has a certain percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced meals to qualify for free meals.”

According to Clem, the school applies for the program every year.

“We have done it since 2014,” Clem said.

The school submits its certified numbers to the state to apply for the program. If a certain percentage of students meet the financial criteria, the school will qualify for the programs, Clem said.

“We have applied for it every year that we’ve been eligible,” Clem said.

While the students to not have to do anything to participate in the meal programs, there is something the student’s families can do.

“We do ask that every household completes a household information form (HIF), just so that we have a record of income,” Clem said. “That allows us to qualify for several things, but they’re also a benefit to the students.”

Clem pointed out that the form provides information that may allow certain school-related fees to be waived for the student.

“That’s not for every student, but it’s for students who qualify under that HIF form,” Clem said. “It’s important that they fill that out.”

Clem added the school has a full menu.

“Every day, they’re offered two hot entrées for lunch, and we have a variety of things for breakfast, and there’s always one hot item for breakfast,” Clem said. “We encourage students to download the Harlan Independent Schools app on their phones because that has access to the menus.”

Clem said this year has an added perk.

“We’re extra excited this year because our cafeteria has been redesigned,” Clem said. “It has a restaurant look to it, and we have approximately $100,000 worth of furniture coming.”

Clem pointed out that much of the food is cooked from scratch. Including tacos, chili, and spaghetti.

“We’re proud of our meals,” Clem said. “We have what students like to eat.”

The release also states the meal programs are possible due to the Community Eligibility Provision for School Year 2022-2023 being implemented.