Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Get in Line

Posted 09/17/2010 by Katie Boyer

US Federal Government offers free and reduced lunches to low-income households.

Photo by Katie Boyer

Every school day, Denver Public Schools offers healthy meals in the cafeteria at little to no cost for students from low-income households. This is done in order to feed all hungry learners, helping them concentrate on schoolwork. According to a meal cost analysis by Alice Jo Rainville (of Eastern Michigan University), it costs, on average, less to buy lunch at school than to bring lunch from home. “These national guidelines enable good nutrition at good prices,” TJ Head Secretary Pam Collins said.

Breakfast is currently free to all students at DPS schools that offer a breakfast program, while lunch prices are $2.20 for grades 9-12, and the reduced lunch price is $0.40. Every school lunch includes five food groups, in which the student gets to choose what they would like to eat. The choices available, while delicious yet healthy, have two to three options in each pyramid category. Milk: In chocolate, strawberry or plain, there is fat free 1% milk that is locally produced and hormone free. Vegetables: A variety ranging from garden grown greens to salads or carrot sticks. Fruit: Choices from kiwi to peach slices, depending on if the Colorado grown fruit is in season. Grains: Rolls, pasta, muffins and sandwich bread are available to students as one of the most important food groups. Meat: A selection of either white meat chicken or bean burritos. These lunch options are provided by Lunchroom Manager Dave Rikert who states, “Kids need to eat. We have a saying [in the cafeteria] which is, ‘A hungry child cannot learn,’ which is why I think this is a great program.”

The Meal Benefits Application is sent out every year in the mail with registration papers for families to complete and turn in to the school’s cafeteria. This form is to see if one qualifies for free or reduced lunch, based on whether the household income is within the limits on the Federal Income Chart (information given on the form may be asked to be verified with written proof). If a family does not qualify now, they may still reapply at a later time if the household size goes up, income goes down, or if the main provider becomes unemployed. Even if someone in the house is not a U.S. citizen or if the household income is not always the same, it is possible to obtain free or reduced price meals. “I get reduced lunch and it’s pretty nice. It’s $0.40, so it’s much cheaper and less hassle free than a packed lunch,” said Freshman Tashari Sayers.

An Application for Meal Benefits is also important for demographic data collected from each school in order to identify how much money a school can receive from the government. Much of a school’s funding is received from students qualifying for meal benefits, even if they choose to not participate in the school meal program. Collins said, “Thomas Jefferson receives grants for educational needs based on these demographics, so it is very important that every student fill one out yearly since it is how the district collects data.”

This program, enabling free or reduced lunches for students, is a nationwide effort by the U.S. Federal Government to provide for all households with education as well as nutrition.