With so many things for students to be concerned about this school year, being able to afford to eat lunch shouldn’t be one of them. Currently, based on income, 68% of Orange County Public Schools families – or seven out of 10 students – are eligible to receive free or reduced school meals. OCPS’s Food & Nutrition Services (FNS) is encouraging all parents – whether they require the assistance or not – to submit an application for the 2020-2021 program by the September 22nd deadline to help ensure that schools can maintain or expand the availability of free and reduced meal benefits. Despite individual student need, every application submitted helps schools receive valuable funding and resources.
“Some families may be relying on meal benefits for the first time ever due to pandemic-induced hardships, while others may forget to apply amidst the many decisions they’ve had to make recently,” said Lora Gilbert, Senior Director of the OCPS FNS. “But no child should worry about hunger. This program not only helps students in need, but it also helps families save money and gives parents the convenience of providing nutritional meals for their children every day of the week.”
With free and reduced meal benefits, all eligible children attending school through virtual or in-person learning can receive a healthy breakfast and lunch; at select schools, supper is available as well. Families must submit a new application every year to receive meal benefits, and eligibility is determined by the total household income. Families can save between $450-$1,479 per child per school year. In addition to meal benefits, families are eligible for reduced-cost Internet, utilities and summer camp, as well as free ACT and SAT testing.
Currently, 133 of OCPS’s 216 schools participate in the Community Eligibility Program (CEP) and provide free meals to students. Twenty-four schools were added to the CEP list in advance of the new school year. Eighty-three schools remain eligible for meal benefits. The application for the 2020-2021 school year can be filled out online by September 22nd and takes between 15-30 minutes per household. To apply for meal benefits, visit www.MySchoolApps.com.
FNS operates under strict nutrition guidelines and is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture. Fruits and vegetables are provided with each meal, and whole grains are incorporated through components such as breads, pizzas and rice. There are no fried foods or any foods high in fat, sugar or salt. These guidelines, paired with well-known, brand-name products, allow OCPS FNS to serve students healthy, great tasting meals.
For more information about OCPS FNS and the meal benefits program, visit www.ocps.net/departments/food and nutrition services or call 407-858-3110, ext. 329-3966.