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G-PISD finds way to offer free meals despite loss of federal funds

GPISD Free Meals
Posted at 5:36 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 18:36:50-05

PORTLAND, Texas — Before the school year, Elsa Dominguez and other parents were told the Gregory-Portland Independent School District would have to start charging for breakfast and lunches again.

In late January, the school board announced that wasn't the case, as all students will have free meals for a sixth consecutive year.

"We know that it saves each student that participates about $1,000," G-PISD Superintendent Dr. Michelle Cavazos said. "And so, we're really pleased and proud that our board was supportive of making this investment in our students."

Since the 2017-18 school year, federal funds from Hurricane Harvey Relief provided free meals to all students. Those funds will run out after this school year.

Dominguez has a son in tenth grade and a daughter in sixth grade.

“You make adjustments as a parent and you’re like okay, making sure that the accounts are filled where they need to be filled,” she said.

The school board was discussing how much they would have to charge for breakfast and lunch. The prices were made for pre-kindergarten to fifth grade and sixth grade through 12th grade.

Cavazos said they came to somewhere between charging $3 and $3.50 per lunch. Then the board had a discussion how to better help the students and their families.

“We are able to access some funds in our fund balance," Cavazos said. "As well as, as we build out our budget for next year, we’ll look at areas where we might be able to make some reductions in our expenditures.”

“That’s a great savings," Dominguez said. "Like I mentioned before, with inflation on food and gasoline (...) a little help that can be offered is always appreciated.“

G-PISD's website breaks down what the district would have had to charge during the five years of free meals and what costs would have been in the 2022-23 school year.

“When our students are fed they are able to pay attention and learn their content even better,” Cavazos said.

Dominguez is also a member of the district's Health Advisory Council.

"It's very important for all of our students to be well fed, to be able to concentrate," she said. "Their tummies are not rumbling. They’re not thinking, 'When is lunch? When is lunch?' And they’ve had breakfast. and hopefully they’ve had lunch. And some children only have meals at school, so it’s very important."

Cavazos said the school board is aware how difficult the last few years have been for families. Dominguez added that this is helpful because they never quite know what families are dealing with.

“It’s something that, budget wise, families can accommodate," Dominguez said. "But when you’re offered a savings of $1,000 that can be allocated in other places in families needs, that's always helpful.”

Cavazos said while they are thrilled to offer another year of free meals. They will start charging for those meals beginning in the 2023-24 school year.

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