Dozens of OC schools to offer free meals for every student this school year

All students at 67 schools in two Orange County school districts are eligible to receive a free school breakfast and lunch daily regardless of whether the children qualify for the federal free-or-reduced-price meal program.

All 57 schools in Santa Ana Unified and all 9 campuses in Magnolia School District will participate this year in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision, a free meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas.

Across the country, students in public schools can apply for free or reduced meals, based on families’ incomes. But the special federal program grants a waiver and declares that every student in a school, or even in a district, can have the meals without individually qualifying.

Federal and local officials have said the program hopes to capture all eligible students, who don’t always apply for subsidized meals because of the stigma attached to receiving a free lunch while friends and fellow classmates pay.

For schools, it saves countless staffing hours by not having to process thousands of applications each year, officials have said.

In Santa Ana Unified, all 55,221 students are eligible for the free meals. In Magnolia School District, all 6,848 students are eligible.