Parents want to pay Iowa district for free meals
DES MOINES (AP) — Some parents in Des Moines want to continue paying for school meals even though they are now being offered free to all students at 35 of the district’s 60 schools.
A handful of parents reached out after the district announced breakfasts and lunches would be free for everyone at those schools, where most of the 18,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
“They’re saying, ‘We can afford to pay for meals, and we’d like to continue to do so,’” district food director Sandy Huisman told The Des Moines Register.
The district determined it was cheaper to provide free meals for all at those schools than keep track of students’ eligibility. The U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to the change and will pay the entire cost of the meals. Breakfasts cost $1.93 each and lunches cost $2.98.
The district has set up a system so parents who want to pay can put money into their children’s accounts. It will be used to offset costs for families who fell behind. The district is not allowed to seek donations for the free meals, but it will offer the option to any parent who asks about it. Huisman expects more parents will call after classes start next week.
The policy is a response to the poverty rate in Des Moines, which has been rising.
In the 1992-93 school year, just 33 percent of Des Moines students qualified for free meals, compared with 70 percent of the district’s 32,000 students now. For students to qualify, parents must make less than $44,123 annually for a family of four or less than $29,101 for a family of two.
The free-meals-for-all policy was already in place at 13 schools.