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School Meal Forms Are Back: How to Supercharge Your Collection Process

Kindergarten children eating packed lunch together

by Treasure Standeford, Hunger Outreach Program Senior Specialist

Balanced and secure nutrition contributes to students’ success in and out of the classroom, playing a critical role in their overall health and academic achievement. “Most US children attend school for six hours a day and consume as much as half their daily calories at school.”  The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) provide students with protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and milk during their school day, ensuring they have enough food to fuel their learning and shape healthy eating habits. All students can participate in school meal programs, and some students qualify to receive free or reduced-price meals based on their household income.

During the first years of the COVID pandemic, federal nutrition program waivers allowed schools to offer free meals to all students. When these waivers expired, districts collected school meal forms once again to determine which students qualify for free and reduced-price meals.

During this transition back to requiring school meal forms, how do we make sure students continue to access these healthy meals, especially those from low-income families?

With school meal debt on the rise, families need to be re-informed of the option, the completion process, and the many benefits associated with school meal form completion.

Schools are operating on tighter budgets these days. School meal Form completion not only can increase meal reimbursement rates but helps qualifying schools secure Title I funding. Afterschool and Summer Meal location eligibility are based on this data as well, as is Summer EBT grocery assistance for qualifying families.

To help school districts re-energize their school meal form collection process and return rates, we have created a School Meal Form Webinar in partnership with Oologah-Talala Public Schools.

Over the last year Hunger Free Oklahoma and Oologah-Talala Public Schools identified ways to make school meal forms more approachable and outreach more effective for a high rate of return. In our webinar, we help school districts get back to the basics of using the school meal form, build buy-in from your community, connect with students and families, and organize district-wide outreach while building up a sense of urgency and expectation for completing the school meal form.

Creating an environment where school meal forms are a part of normal conversation helps decrease stigma and increase student access to healthy meals across our state.

Not only does the school meal form help students access healthy meals, but it also plays a role in additional funding opportunities for districts such as Title I, Afterschool and Summer Meal opportunities, and much more. By supporting obesity prevention, improving diets, and combatting hunger, school meals help build healthier, more academically supported students.

Our School Meal Form Webinar “Making the School Meal Form Approachable” will be held starting Wednesday, May 24th and running through the beginning of August. Visit our registration page to check dates and times and let us know you’ll be attending. New to the topic and want a bit more information first? View our Webinar Primer. We look forward to seeing you there!

Working together for a hunger free Oklahoma.

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