Free Meals For Students


Oregon Governor Tina Kotek

According to an article written by Julia Silverman and published by the Oregonian titled, “Free school lunch for all looks to be off the table, for now,” the Oregon State Legislature scrapped legislation to provide students in the State of Oregon with free school lunches. A new, albeit vague bill, has been submitted that seeks to replace free lunches with a government program that reimburses schools for the cost of lunches. On top of this, the national school lunch program and school breakfast program also has a plan to give free and reduced lunches to students that qualify for Medicaid. This also comes after Tina Kotek announced a massive increase in spending, specifically in education.
While this news doesn’t necessarily mean that free lunches won’t come back to the state legislature, it still raises many important questions. As this brings back memories of March 2020, and the food insecurity that came with the initial covid 19 wave many people might feel panicked by this news. Lori Culp, the Executive administrative assistant of Nutrition Services for the North Clackamas School District responded to our questions via email. 

According to the previously mentioned article, free school lunches didn’t make it through state legislation. What does this mean for the North Clackamas school district?
The North Clackamas School District will continue working with families to qualify as many households as possible for free and reduced meals. In Oregon, we can qualify many more families using the Oregon Extended Income Guidelines, an eligibility funded by the Student Success Act. The purpose of the EIG funding is to increase access to school meals in our communities, it applies to students from households with incomes above 185% but not exceeding 300% of the federal poverty guidelines provided by the federal government.”

Why is Medicaid being used to gauge eligibility for the food program?
We have not formally been instructed on if or how we could use Medicaid for qualified families. Right now we have many different ways to qualify students. Students in a household receiving SNAP (food Stamps) automatically qualify for meal benefits. We also qualify students for meal benefits if they are homeless, migrant, or in foster care. Medicaid could be another tool to increase how we can qualify households for free and reduced meal benefits.”

This announcement comes a few months after Kotek announced a major increase in education spending. Why isn’t money from that funding going towards providing free lunches?

In North Clackamas, we have been able to work with the Oregon Department of Education to also extend meals at no cost to all students at 12 of our district’s schools using the Community Eligibility Provisions Program or CEP. Part of this program is also funded by the Student Success Act. Our schools get reimbursement for every reimbursable meal, breakfast and lunch, served to our students at our CEP schools.”