Rapid City Central High School now offers free lunches for all students through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). According to the Rapid City Journal, CEP is a federal subsidy through the USDA that offers a non-pricing meal-option for schools and students in low-income areas.
Six Rapid City Area Schools have offered free lunches through this provision since 2014 – Beadle Elementary, Horace Mann Elementary, Knollwood Elementary, Robbinsdale Elementary, North Middle and South Park Elementary. For the 2018-2019 school year, three additional schools were added – Canyon Lake Elementary, South Middle, and Central High School. During the first four years of the program, participating schools received a 100 percent reimbursement from the federal government. Now, there are two groups of schools in Rapid City, one receiving 65 percent reimbursement and the other receiving 74 percent. Students at the districts 23 other schools continue to use the free, reduced, and regular pay rates for lunches.
Janelle Peterson, Manager of Student Nutrition at Rapid City Area Schools, said that the district served 8,500 meals daily during the 2017-2018 school year and she hopes to see that number increase by 200 this year.
CEP began in 2010, when it was authorized by Congress as part of the Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act, spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama. Schools with more than 40 percent of students coming from households receiving SNAP or TANF benefits are eligible to receive all or partial reimbursements from the federal government. Last year Rapid City had the highest number of students receiving free meals through CEP in South Dakota at 2,640.
Read more about Education and Training in the Black Hills at the Black Hills Knowledge Network issue hub.