By Jason Wesseldyk
For the past two school years, Otsego Public Schools has been able to provide free breakfasts and lunches to all students thanks to the federally funded Universal School Meals Program.
That will not be the case for the 2022-23 school year, as the United States Department of Agriculture failed to renew the program, meaning meal charges will return for students.
But students may still qualify for free or reduced meals and the district is urging all families to complete an application to determine eligibility.
The Free & Reduced Meal application is now open and school officials are encouraging all families—regardless of whether or not they think you qualify—to complete the form. It can be filled out online at https://otsego.familyportal.cloud/or by paper.
OPS food service coordinator Julie Guthrie stressed the importance of completing the application by the Monday, Aug. 15, deadline.
“My biggest concern this school year is for the families we know rely on free and reduced lunches not being able to get them simply because they did not fill out the free and reduced form,” Guthrie said. “Families rely on it now even more so than ever. The prices in the grocery stores are climbing and are expected to climb further.”
According to Guthrie, more families could qualify this year as compared to previous years.
“The USDA has increased the income limits this year, so even if you haven’t qualified in the past, you might qualify this year due to those increased limits,” she said. “The key is that families need to apply before school starts because once school starts, everyone who has not filled out an application is considered full pay.”
Completing an application is confidential and takes less than 10 minutes on average. Only one application needs to be completed per family, regardless of the number of students in the family.
OPS is not raising its meal prices from where they were during the 2019-20 school year when meal charges were last in effect, but there is a significant savings to those who qualify through the program.
Meal charges are as follows:
- Breakfast: $1.40
- Elementary Lunch: $2.35
- Middle/High School Lunch: $2.55
- Breakfast: $0.30
- Elementary Lunch: $0.40
- Middle/High School Lunch: $0.40
“I want to make the start of the school year as seamless as we can and we don’t want kids upset or families upset because that their child is getting charged for meals that first day,” Guthrie said. “We also don’t want that sense of urgency for families just before school starts.
“The sooner families get it filled out the better so that we can take some of that stress off right before school starts and it’s done and over with. That application will carry your child through the remainder of the school year.”
Paper copies can be obtained at the OPS administration office located at 400 Sherwood St. Applications will also be available at all of the district’s summer meal site locations as well as at each building orientation before school.
Once completed, the application can be returned at any of those sites or at the office of the various school buildings in the district once they reopen in late July.
Those who qualify for free or reduced lunches are also eligible to receive discounts on other expenses including: sports participation fees; Chromebook insurance charges; academic testing fees for AP, SAT, and ACT; and college applications fees.
Qualifying families also increase federal funding given to the district to support our students with such services as: tutors and classroom materials; social-emotional needs and counselors; and summer school/intervention opportunities.
Contact Guthrie firstname.lastname@example.org or 269-694-7447 with any questions or to receive more information.