For the next three school years, Sequim School District students are eligible to receive free meals at their schools.
The district is participating in the federal Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)/Provision 2 programs that allow children to eat breakfast and lunch at no cost to families.
According to district staff, Sequim schools have offered meals for two years to students at no cost through state and federal programs related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The district was reimbursed each year for the meals, and it’s already covered students’ breakfasts for years, staff reported.
Prior to the reconfiguration of Sequim’s elementary schools this fall, Helen Haller Elementary School qualified for the Community Eligibility Provision program based on its number of low income families, but Sequim’s other schools did not meet the needed percentage to qualify, district staff reported.
According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)’s Report Card on Sequim School District, more than 1,400 students — or about 56.3 percent — were classified as low income as of Oct. 1, 2022.
Helen Haller Elementary’s student population had about 71 percent, or 380-plus students, classified as low income at the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
Sequim’s other schools ranged from 49.3 percent to 53.9 percent, according to OSPI’s Report Card.
For the CEP, the Department of Agriculture reports Sequim School District will be “reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of students categorically eligible for free meals based on their participation in other specific means-tested programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).”
In order to qualify the remaining Sequim Schools for free meals, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Child Nutrition Services worked with Sequim School District and Sodexo staff to provide the Provision 2 program. Those schools include Greywolf Elementary, Olympic Peninsula Academy, Sequim High School and Sequim Middle School.
Under the new programs, the district will no longer collect Free and Reduced-Price Applications, but rather a Family Income Survey for each household. Paper copies were mailed out to all families who were not directly certified for free or reduced meals through the state, and copies can also be picked up from any school’s office, the school district office or can be downloaded from the district’s website (sequimschools.org).
The form cannot be submitted online, however, district staff said.
Darlene Apeland, Sequim School’s business operations and finance director, said the “form helps us determine household information for all students attending CEP and Provision 2 schools.”
She said, “Without this information, our schools could lose important state funding for educational programs that our students are entitled to.”
Apeland added that families are not required to fill out a Family Income Survey to qualify for free meals, as they are provided regardless of their family’s income guidelines.
However, she said, families are strongly encouraged to fill out the survey because they may be eligible for other reduced fees such as those associated with sports, clubs, field trips, testing and Running Start.
Once a survey is filled out, a family will receive a “Notice of Eligibility” letter via email once you have been approved, or a copy can be printed anytime from Skyward Family Access. Families also have the option to fill out a “Consent to Share Form” that can be obtained from a child’s school office.
Over the summer, Sequim Food Bank provided about 1,350 Weekend Meal Bags for children to take home on Fridays, available at locations in the Sequim area, through the Boys & Girls Club of the Olympic Peninsula.
Food Bank organizers say they anticipate providing about 250 bags each Friday during the school year to Sequim students.
Sequim students who attended school in person last year were also eligible to receive a one-time lump sum P-EBT (Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer) card with $120 per child for the summer months.
Apeland said the program is separate from the (CEP)/Provision 2 programs, and it’s a temporary program to provide additional food benefits for children in the summer who had limited onsite meals at their school or child care center due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is the final school year for P-EBT due to the Public Health Emergency expiring May 11, 2023, Apeland said.