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Free meals will not be available to all in-person CPS students

CPS Meal Service
CPS Nutrition Services Team delivers meals. Courtesy of Laurie Algiere.


When Columbia Public Schools elementary students return to classrooms Monday, some of them will not be able to get free meals.

When school began online in September, all students ages 2-18 could receive a meal, regardless of if they qualified for free and reduced-price meals, through the Grab and Go Meal Program. 

Grab and Go Meal Program deliveries will continue for virtual students and will be available to in-person students on Wednesdays, the day students have off while classes are deep-cleaned. However, free meals will only be available for some students in school buildings.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently extended free meals for qualifying schools for the entire school year. Before that, the program was only in effect through Dec. 31. The program allows all students in some schools to get free meals, regardless of whether they're eligible for free and reduced-price meals already.

CPS Nutrition Services Director Laina Fullum said the USDA funding only qualifies for some of the district's buildings while students are there in-person. Only those buildings in which at least 50% of students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch qualify for the program.

Fullum said the district has 15 schools that qualify for free meals for all in-person students. One is pending approval.

The schools are:

  • Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary
  • Battle Elementary
  • Benton Elementary
  • Blue Ridge Elementary
  • Derby Ridge Elementary
  • Fairview Elementary (yet to be approved)
  • New Haven Elementary
  • Parkade Elementary
  • West Boulevard Elementary
  • CORE
  • Lange Middle School
  • Oakland Middle School
  • Battle High School
  • Douglass High School 
  • Hickman High School
  • Rock Bridge High School

Fullum said roughly 42% of the district qualified for the free and reduced-price meal program last year. Students in other schools who qualify for free meals will still receive them.

Fullum said the Grab and Go Meal Program will continue and all of the routes will still be the same for the next two weeks.

“Eventually there will be changes but we’re going to let this go for at least two weeks before we do any changes,” Fullum said. “Of course we’ll warn and post the changes when they come.”

Fullum said the major change to the Grab and Go Meal Program is that Hickman High School will be the only school providing meal pickup. 

The district encourages families to complete the free and reduced-price meal application if they are in need of assistance. 

For families with students that will be eating school lunch the district asks that funds be added to their lunch account, which can be done online.

Riane Cleveland


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