Meridian offers free lunch to all students until December 31


photo by Emery Johnson

Dana Damery, a cook at Meridian, hands lunch to a student. These free lunches are available to all Meridian students.

Last spring, the State of Illinois offered meal waivers which allowed schools to provide meals with no charge.  The Meridian School District has requested to extend this program, it went back into effect on October 1 and will end on December 31.

“Student accounts will not be charged for breakfast or lunch unless they purchase additional items beyond what is offered,” said the email Eric Hurlbrink, Meridian High School principal, sent to students and parents on September 30.

There has always been a free school lunch program, sponsored by the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), but only certain kids could qualify. The state later reimburses the school for those meals.

“As we went through the spring, with our closure, we would have a free lunch pick up a couple of times a week where anybody could come and get a free school lunch and free school breakfast,” Hurlbrink said.

That program started in the spring but schools could apply to get a waiver to extend it through the first semester; that is what Meridian did.

“There’s talk that they may extend that even further into next semester but we just have to wait and see,” Hurlbrink said.

If it does not get extended to cover everybody, those who still qualify for free lunch, due to economic reasons, will still get free lunch.

“It’s really beneficial to us parents, especially those who have been laid off or furloughed,” Nichole Massey, a parent of a Meridian elementary and middle school student said.

Meridian senior Robert Le Cates eats lunch at school every day. His family gets food stamps but that money mainly covers dinner for his family and is not enough for him to bring lunch from home.

“The free meals benefit me a lot,” said Le Cates, “Knowing that I’m going to be able to eat somewhere is nice to know, it’s very comforting.”