For students who eat lunch every day at school, that’s a $10 savings each week for a high school student, $7.55 a week for an elementary school student.

Like a growing number of schools across the country, Lewiston is joining the so-called “Community Eligibility Provision,” created under the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the school lunch program.

It’s the federal government’s push to ensure students don’t go hungry in schools and have access to healthy meals.

Alisa Roman, the nutrition director for Lewiston schools, began studying whether Lewiston should join the program after the Auburn School Department signed up last fall for five of its schools that are eligible.

To qualify, a district or school must have a minimum of 40 percent of students from families on a program like food stamps. Lewiston’s percentage districtwide is 53 percent, the Lewiston School Committee heard Monday night.

Dolly Long, who oversees the nutrition program at Farwell Elementary, told committee members she sees students approach the lunch line who are worried about paying.


“Now it shouldn’t be their worry; it’s the parents’,” Long said. “This is very important.”

The main benefit of adopting the program is that everyone gets to eat.

“I love the fact that I don’t care who comes through that line, what their economic status is,” Roman said. “They eat breakfast, eat lunch. That is a huge, huge benefit. The stigma is gone.”

Lunch lines will be faster. Students will no longer have to key in numbers that track individual accounts, keeping track of which students get free or reduced-price meals. That time-consuming chore “goes away,” Roman said. And staff will no longer have to remind parents to pay the school meal bills.

“We can focus on the meals,” she said. “Which is what we want to do.”

Parents will no longer fill out free and reduced-lunch forms, but they will need to fill out new forms to ensure Lewiston gets the money it’s entitled from the state education funding formula for poorer students.


“I will not be asking for your specific income; I will be looking for a range,” Roman said. “The difference is, I don’t need your Social Security number. I don’t need to know you made $14.01 an hour.”

The program will be good for Lewiston, she said. Roman researched pitfalls; her numbers showed a good picture.

She expects participation in the school meal program to increase by about 6.4 percent. Since the number of poor families in Lewiston dictates how much the federal government will reimburse, the high percentage of poor families and participation in lunch programs means not only will the program break even, Lewiston schools stand to receive $100,000 more a year.

“It is a win for the district,” Roman said.

School Committee member Tom Shannon said everyone eating at school “is a good idea. Kids need to eat at school. You can’t learn when you’re hungry.”

He wanted to be sure the program is as good as it sounds. Roman said it is, but the district can pull out with a 30-day notice.


Auburn adopted the program last fall for its five schools that qualified: Washburn, Walton, Park Avenue, Sherwood Heights and Franklin.

The program is working, Superintendent Katy Grondin said Monday. Because the federal government reimburses money for school meals, it’s not costing the district more, she said.

“We’re very pleased,” Grondin said. “It’s doing what we wanted. It’s helping families and making sure students are eating. The stigma is gone.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.