Missoula County Public Schools families received a very welcome email this afternoon that I’m sure brought great relief to many. All school meals will be free for the rest of the school year due to an extension of support from the US Department of Agriculture! The current program was set to end at winter break, so this is wonderful news, especially considering that the pandemic has impacted many Missoula family’s income and job status. On top of the economic impact of COVID-19, did you know that 48% of residents in our county are cost burdened due to the cost of their housing? That means that nearly half of Missoula families spend 30 to 50% of their income, or more, on rent/housing. That sucks. 

With that said, only 20% of MCPS families have returned a Free and Reduced Meal application, when up to 60% of MCPS families probably qualify for Free or Reduced Cost Meals. 

Even though meals are free through the end of this school year, MCPS needs your help with these meal forms. Returning forms helps give an accurate count to ensure important federal funding comes to our schools. This funding, that you may have heard called Title 1, is based on the number of families who qualify for free or reduced price meals. Our school district uses it to fund additional staff, professional development, family support services, and even technology for students. This school year, our schools received about $200,000 less in funding from this program due to the low response rates for the annual Free and Reduced Meal applications from last fall. 

They do need families to complete a new form each school year, so if you haven’t done it yet this fall, please do so. The schools sent forms in the mail and you can also fill out the form online here >>FreeReduced App 2020-2021. Some folks are pleasantly surprised to find that they qualify because of changes to income or household size. Also, if you completed a form for your high schoolers, please do a separate one for your younger K-8 kiddos. It's the least we can do in exchange for free breakfast and lunches for the remainder of the school year.

When you complete the application, these are the benefits you may receive: 

Reduced price or free school meals 

Qualification for other resources like free or low cost Internet access at home 

ACT and SAT test fees waived or reduced 

Tuition for dual credit university classes waived 

Middle and High School Athletic fees waiver or reduced 

These are the important benefits to our schools when you complete the application: 

Federal funding for staffing, professional development, technology, supplies, and parent engagement activities for our schools 

Our schools need your help. All high school families received a form in the mail along with a self addressed return envelope. All families who return forms by 11/23 will be entered into a raffle for gas, grocery, or a Montana Club gift card. 

Please complete the application and ask your friends if they have completed theirs yet. Even if you think you won’t qualify, consider it an act of support to ensure our schools can retain this essential federal funding.