A hot meal.
For some it is simple. For others, it can be the key between a good day at school or a bad one.
This week is National School Breakfast Week, an effort to make sure every student knows that if they are in need, a hot meal will be provided free or at reduced price.
“From homemade coffee cake with fruit in it, to granola we make here, to whole grain bagels, croissants,” said Tracie Surgeon, Executive Chef for Bend La Pine Schools. “We do sausage or egg patties to make breakfast sandwiches.”
At the Bend-La Pine School District’s production kitchen inside Bend Senior High School, an army of nutrition service workers prepare about 3,000 breakfasts early each morning which are distributed to all 33 schools in the district.
“Today we made biscuits and gravy. It was a perfect day to have homemade biscuits and gravy,” Surgeon said.
During the COVID pandemic, meals were free to all students in all schools thanks to federal relief programs. But now only nine schools in economically distressed areas continue serving free meals.
The rest of the Bend-La Pine student body needs to apply for free or reduced price meals.
“I think some families are a little confused. Applying is great. Our numbers stayed pretty stagnant considering everything was free, they are now more interested in eating those meals even if they are paying full price.”
Full price for a breakfast is $2.50 at elementary schools and $2.75 at high schools.
Lunch costs a dollar more.
“The meals are really good if you get there early. A lot of the time they’re out,” said Ella Hough, a junior at Bend High. “I love the breakfast sandwiches. That’s what I usually go for.”
As of January this year, about 320 students at Bend High School were eating meals for free or at reduced prices, which is about 23% of the student body.
By comparison, 45% of Elk Meadow Elementary School students eat meals for free or at reduced prices.
“Income qualifications have expanded. If you think you don’t qualify, please apply,” Surgeon said. “You might be surprised at what the qualifications are now.
Applications for free and reduced price school meals are available in all the schools, at the district administration building in downtown Bend and online at the school district’s website.