Free meal program for all students ends, but some schools to continue for low-income students

All but nine Houston ISD schools will be qualified to continue their free meal programs.

Houston Independent School District’s Nutrition Services announced that all students will eat meals at no charge during the 2018-2019 school year.

During the pandemic, all students have been able to receive free meals; no questions asked. But as they return to school this year, that may not be the case for everyone.

Houston ISD will continue the program in certain schools for students during the coming 2022-2023 year, prioritizing schools in low-income areas. All but nine schools will be qualified. The qualifying schools can eliminate their application process to qualify for the program, and students in those schools also do not have to apply.

"This approach reduces burdens for both families and school administrators and helps ensure that students receive nutritious meals," Luis Morales, a spokesman with HISD, said.

Schools received meal services from the Community Eligibility Provision during the pandemic, and provided breakfast and lunch to all students.

The schools that do not qualify for the program are the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Harvard Elementary, Horn Elementary, Mark Twain Elementary, Travis Elementary, Oak Forest Elementary, River Oaks Elementary, West University Elementary and Roberts Elementary.

Students at those schools can still receive free or reduced meals, but the individual families must apply for the program.

Other ISDs including Spring and Fort Bend have multiple schools that qualify for the free program to continue. Forty campuses in Spring ISD are considered low income and won’t have to fill out the application. Shelly Copeland is Spring’s Director of Child Nutrition. She said the district has been participating in the Community Eligibility Program since 2017 and the last two years have been "a game-changer."

“Not just from an administrative end, but also for families,” said Copeland. “Having that burden lifted, of not having to process those applications, was definitely a game changer.”

Student’s at Spring’s Momentum High School will be required to fill out an application for free meals. The school is in its first year and income levels for its students hasn’t been determined yet. 125 students are enrolled at the school.

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