DMPS Expands No Cost Meal Program


Harding students already enjoy meals at no cost.

DES MOINES, IA (July 22, 2014) – Des Moines Public Schools will offer meals at no cost to all students enrolled at 35 schools and three early learning centers at the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

The program, called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and covers 100% of the cost of breakfast and lunch for all students at these schools, which have been identified as having a high number of students living in poverty.  Schools that participate in CEP will no longer be required to collect Free and Reduced Price School Meals Applications to determine student eligibility for free meals.

“Community eligibility ensures more students can focus on their studies and not worry about being hungry,” Superintendent Thomas Ahart said. “When students are more focused on learning, outcomes are better for everyone.”

DMPS schools which have a percentage of directly certified students of 50% or more, according to the data reported as of April 1, 2014, will be eligible to participate for the 2014 – 15 school year.  Direct certification is the process in which students are automatically approved for free breakfast and free lunch based on designation by the Iowa Department of Human Services.

DMPS already offers meals at no cost to all students at these 13 schools:

  • Capitol View Elementary School
  • Carver Elementary
  • Edmunds Elementary
  • Findley Elementary
  • Harding Middle School
  • Hiatt Middle School
  • Howe Elementary
  • King Elementary
  • Lovejoy Elementary
  • McKinley Elementary School
  • Monroe Elementary
  • Moulton Extended Learning Center
  • Willard Elementary School

The expanded program will also include the following schools:

  • Brubaker Elementary
  • Callanan Middle School
  • Cattell Elementary
  • Garton Elementary
  • Hoyt Middle School
  • Jackson Elementary
  • Madison Elementary
  • McCombs Middle School
  • McKee Education Center
  • Meredith Middle School
  • Mitchell Early Learning Center
  • Morris Elementary
  • North High School
  • Oak Park Elementary
  • Park Avenue Elementary
  • River Woods Elementary School
  • Samuelson Elementary
  • Scavo High School
  • Smouse Opportunity School
  • South Union Elementary
  • Stowe Elementary
  • Studebaker Elementary
  • Weeks Middle School
  • Windsor Elementary
  • Woodlawn Education Center

As of now, almost 70% of DMPS students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.  Most families must apply to the district.  The application and tracking process takes time and costs the district money.

“Community eligibility will reduce administrative costs associated with processing applications for free and reduced price meals by about $15,000 each year,” Director of Food and Nutrition Management Sandy Huisman said.  “The program also increases efficiency in the lunchroom and eliminates the need for costly meal tracking equipment, reducing costs by another $60,000.”

CEP also eliminates the paperwork for families.  DMPS administrators said In the past some families were not willing or able to apply for free or reduced cost meals for a variety of reasons including awareness of the program, language barriers, social stigmas and challenges with accurate completion of forms.  Some of those students were either running up a large debt with the district or going hungry at school.

“The program will ease the burden on families living in or near poverty while saving the district money, too.” Huisman said.

For answers to frequently asked questions, click on Community Eligibility FAQ.