Calais Schools Aim to Provide Free Meals for All

By Lura Jackson

The Calais School Committee is seeking to provide all students who attend a Calais school with a completely free lunch and breakfast—however, to do so, assistance from parents is required. 

The opportunity comes as a result of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), a federal program that enables communities with widespread low income to receive a larger reimbursement amount for each student that meets the low income criteria. The increased reimbursement amount helps to cover the meal cost of those students who don’t meet the criteria. Communities around the state have been able to provide free meals to all of their students utilizing the provision.

To qualify for CEP, more than 40 percent of the student body must meet low income guidelines. Superintendent Ron Jenkins said that based on returned parental forms, 44 percent of students at Calais Elementary School met the criteria. However, only 29.2 percent at Calais Middle High School did. Jenkins attributes the difference to a lack of response from parents.

“I’m very certain if we had more paperwork returned we would meet the criteria. Income doesn’t change that much just because kids get older,” Jenkins said. “It’s very pertinent to get the paperwork in.”

Jenkins said that the school system had looked into offering free meals for this upcoming school year. With the current numbers, though, it would have cost about $36,000—more than the double what the school could budget. If more parents respond and the number more accurately reflects the income of the community, the cost would be much lower.

 

To help the Calais school system attain its goal of offering free meals to all of its students, parents of students in CMHS are strongly encouraged to return paperwork as soon as it is received in the coming year.