As your children head back to school, don’t forget about their lunch: In Lee County, every student is served free breakfast and lunch, but Collier County students will need a certain form filled out by Tuesday night.
Free breakfast and lunch were benefits every Collier County student received because of the pandemic, but the benefit was not renewed for this upcoming school year. If parents want their children to receive free lunch this year, they have to fill out a meal benefit application.
State data shows more than 65% of elementary students in Collier County qualified for free lunch in 2021, compared to the state’s average of 56%. This shows you how much people in the area rely on free meals for students, but, unfortunately, the federal government has not given school districts the flexibility to offer free lunch meals to all students.
“I do see that there is a need, particularly in this moment in time, the economy and the inflation,” said Elizabeth Alfaro, director of nutrition services for the Collier County School District. “That’s why we’re really strongly encouraging that, even if you’re a family that has never completed an application before, just go ahead and do so. Because their circumstances may change, and, particularly if you haven’t done it or you never have, the opportunity is there.”
This link will lead you to the application form necessary for Collier County students.
“There are a lot of benefits to signing up for this meal application,” Alfaro said. “There are scholarships, there are reduced fees for testing. There’s also, I believe it’s with Comcast, there’s a reduced rate if you qualify, so that meal benefit application is sort of the framework to other areas where you can receive a reduced price.”