As part of a new state bill, Lynden Schools qualifies for “universal feeding” for elementary age students during the 2023-24 school year, meaning every student in all three of the elementary schools can eat breakfast and lunch at school for free. The program does not apply to students enrolled in alternative learning programs such as Lynden Academy.
The new Meals for Washington Students program—passed as House Bill 1238—provides free meals for every student in an elementary school where 40% or more of enrolled students in that school qualify for free or reduced-price meals. All three Lynden elementary schools qualify.
The new program does not impact operations at Lynden Middle School or Lynden High School.
Families are encouraged to fill out the new 2023-24 free and reduced meal application. Not only is the application still required for students at the middle and high school to receive benefits, but families meeting the income thresholds could be eligible for additional supports and benefits throughout the school year, such as free internet, college testing fees, ASB cards.
Narlene VanBeek, Lynden food service director, says staff will get a daily lunch count at each school and adjust food ordering accordingly to ensure they have enough meals for every student.
She noted that the program provides meals for free to all students, but ala carte items, such as a student looking to get just a carton of milk, still come at a cost, which means the schools will still use the point-of-sale program for all students.
Schools must continue to meet the program’s thresholds to qualify for the universal feeding program each year, making it important that families fill out the free and reduced meal application. Those applications also ensure the district has accurate data when applying for other state grants or funding.