Free Meals For All Students During The 2022-23 School Year

Des Moines Public Schools is excited to announce the district food and nutrition program will provide free meals to every DMPS enrolled student at every school building during the 2022-23 school year. DMPS is able to offer free meals by expanding its participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).  CEP will help provide a free breakfast and lunch to almost 30,000 students.

CEP allows schools and districts that predominantly serve low-income children to offer free, nutritious school meals to students through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Participation is automatic, families are not required to fill out any forms or applications. More than 75% of DMPS students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches this year.

DMPS began offering free meals to students at 13 schools during the 2013-14 school year. With the implementation of the federal CEP program nationwide the following year, the district was able to offer free meals to an additional 25 schools. During the 2022-23 school year, students in all 60 schools and programs will have access to a free, nutritious breakfast and lunch every school day.

“This is a dream that has become a reality,” said Food and Nutrition Director Amanda Miller. “We have added more schools to the CEP program every year, but this is the first time we will be able to provide a breakfast and lunch to every DMPS student in buildings across the district at no cost to their families with no hoops to jump through. We knew the federal assistance from pandemic relief was going to end at some point, so we were happy to position ourselves to continue to feeding students at no cost moving forward.”

The change could not come at a better time as congressional COVID assistance for school meals through the American Rescue Plan runs out, and inflation has raised the cost of food for everyone. While the district is paying more for food, utilizing the CEP program has reduced administrative costs associated with processing applications for free and reduced-price meals. It is also increasing efficiency in the lunchroom and eliminating the need for costly meal tracking equipment.

“This is not a time to raise prices on school meals,” said Associate Superintendent Matthew Smith. “We need to ensure every student has access to a nutritious breakfast and lunch every school day. It’s vital to their ability to learn and succeed in school and out in the community. This is about providing the essentials for every child and supporting every family.”

DMPS schools will begin offering a free breakfast and lunch to every student at every building beginning on the first day of school, August 24, 2022.  Under current USDA guidelines, CEP benefits do not transfer to students enrolled at the DMPS Virtual Campus.

The district is also offering free meals to every child in the community during the summer break. Visit our website for dates, times, and locations.