New district program brings free lunches to students

A+student+picks+up+a++esta+bowl+in+the+Akins+cafeteria+on+Sept.+24.+Fiesta+bowls+are+one+of+the+most+popular+items+that+the+cafeteria+serves%2C+which+includes+organic+meats%2C+rice+and+beans.
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New district program brings free lunches to students

A student picks up a  esta bowl in the Akins cafeteria on Sept. 24. Fiesta bowls are one of the most popular items that the cafeteria serves, which includes organic meats, rice and beans.

A student picks up a esta bowl in the Akins cafeteria on Sept. 24. Fiesta bowls are one of the most popular items that the cafeteria serves, which includes organic meats, rice and beans.

Saul Moreno

A student picks up a esta bowl in the Akins cafeteria on Sept. 24. Fiesta bowls are one of the most popular items that the cafeteria serves, which includes organic meats, rice and beans.

Saul Moreno

Saul Moreno

A student picks up a esta bowl in the Akins cafeteria on Sept. 24. Fiesta bowls are one of the most popular items that the cafeteria serves, which includes organic meats, rice and beans.

Christopher Saul Moreno

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Free for all students.

That was the exciting news that students received at the beginning of the school year, regarding cafeteria meals.

Akins, like many other Austin ISD schools, has a high percentage of students from low-income households, many might otherwise go hungry if they didn’t have access to free lunches.

To address this problem, Austin ISD officials applied for Akins to be added to the list of schools on the Community Eligibility Program (CEP), which is designed to improve healthy choices in meals for students and local kids. This program doesn’t just give kids and teens a healthy lunch. It also reduces the burden for families with overwhelming paperwork that might prevent students from getting the lunches they need.

The program rules state that if a child eats at least once a week, the school will be provided with grass-fed meat that can be added to the cafeteria lunch menus. And if they eat at least twice a week the school will provide organic meals. If they eat three times a week the school’s menu will provide district-wide organic milk to schools in the district. This way the district has a more effective way of giving different schools the meals they provides. Ultimately, the CEP program has provided 3,000 additional meals for students district-wide, according to Austin ISD records.

Our top priority is making sure that all students have access to healthy, tasty meals to better ensure that students are getting the nutrients they need for learning and physical activity each day.”

— Lindsey Bradley, Austin ISD Food Service and Nutrition marketing specialist

Lindsey Bradley, a marketing specialist for the district’s Food Service and Nutrition office, said CEP eligibility for schools is based on the percentage of students directly certified for free school meals because they are eligible for food stamp programs. This eliminates the need for families to personally fill out applications for their children to receive a free or reduced-cost lunch, which used to be the practice at Akins.

Bradley said every student’s meal is important and crucial to the AISD ever-growing program.

“Our top priority is making sure that all students have access to healthy, tasty meals to better ensure that students are getting the nutrients they need for learning and physical activity each day,” she said.

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