Questions abound as PPS school lunch changes loom

Deadline is October 11

A student eats a school lunch (KOIN, file)
A student eats a school lunch (KOIN, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is an old and time-honored saying. At Portland Public Schools, there will be changes next month to the district’s free – or reduced-price lunch program.

Facing a shift in demographics and a tough budget, PPS will officially change the parameters of the program on October 11.

“Everybody know that Portland is changing,” PPS spokesperson Dave Northfield said. “It reached a point where the district, because of the budget situation that the district is in, couldn’t afford to continue to pay for free lunches for families who were above the qualifying line of income.”

So before the October 11 deadline, parents at 12 schools must now apply with the district to determine if they are eligible for the free lunch program.

For the past 3 years, PPS has been offering free lunch to all students at 25 schools. But paying for that meant money that could be used to pay for teachers was already allocated.

“We know that just because a family may be slightly above the poverity line does not mean that they’re not struggling, and there’s a deep understanding of that,” Northfield said. “The district, unfortunately, had to make the decision that it could no longer essentially subsidize lunch that’s free for families that don’t qualify for that free lunch.”

Questions recently popped up about the online application process. It asks for the last 4 digits of a Social Security number, but even if a parent or guardian doesn’t have one, it won’t result in an automatic denial and that information will not be used for immigration purposes.

That information will not be used for immigration purposes.

“So there’s no possibility of any of this information will leave the school site or be used for anything other than trying to determine the eligibility for this program,” Northfield said.

PPS officials said Monday no student will go hungy. They’ll work with parents and families individually to make sure all needs are met.