GRANITE FALLS — It came down to Oct. 1, 2014, when more than half of the students at a Granite Falls school were eligible for a free or reduced lunch.
Hitting that threshold meant the Granite Falls School District would qualify for a federal lunch program to feed children from low-income households this summer.
“At the end of the day, it’s got to be about the kids,” school board member Carl Cary said. “I’m happy the kids are going to have this program for the summer.”
That’s a big change from last year, when Cary and other volunteers were scrambling to save the program after a change in demographic requirements disqualified the district from seeking funding.
A complex set of guidelines determine which districts qualify for the national program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Last year, the change shut Granite Falls out. Eligibility is determined every year.
This year, that single day when a school’s “free and reduced lunch count” hit 50 percent tipped the scales the other way.
The summer lunch program starts June 15 and ends Aug. 21. The lunches will be available to students from noon to 1 p.m. on summer weekdays at the Middle School Multipurpose Room.
In past years, it has served an average of 55 students per day, district spokeswoman EB Holderman said. On busy days, more than 120 students come to get lunch.
About 45 percent of the district’s 2,000 students qualify for free or reduced lunches during the school year, based on their families’ incomes. That percentage can vary from school to school. The summer lunch program is geared toward helping children between 1 and 18 years old who don’t have access to healthy meals at home.
Last year, volunteers and the Community Coalition banded together to raise more than $12,000 to cover the cost of summer meals. People stepped in to plan the program and staff the lunchroom.
“If it hadn’t been for the dedicated and passionate effort lead by the Community Coalition, we would not have had this service for our kids,” Superintendent Linda Hall wrote in a letter to parents. “Thank you again to all members who volunteered their time and energy toward the program.”
The coalition’s work isn’t done, Holderman said. The group has been meeting to decide how it can be a resource this year and to plan for the future, when the district again could be disqualified from federal funding. Administrators won’t know until next spring if the money is available for summer 2016.
“If for any reason the program doesn’t go through next year, we’re ready to pick up the ball and run with it,” Cary said.
The coalition plans to have more information available next month about whether they need any volunteers this year to help with set up, clean up or monitoring kids in the lunchroom.
The federal program has strict rules about how it’s run, so they are looking into opportunities for people to help within those parameters, Holderman said.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.