The Crookston School District is asking that families fill out and return the free and reduced lunch applications by December 31 so that the applications can be approved by January 4. Approved free and reduced lunch applications impact how much funding the district receives from the state the following school year.  

Food Service Director Anna Ogaard-Brekken said the district is well behind its usual number of approved applications. “We collect free and reduced applications every year, typically at the beginning of the school year,” said Ogaard-Brekken. “And we get a lot of return on registration day. This year we didn’t have a registration day, and this year we’ve been giving free meals to all families regardless of income level. There’s been a significantly reduced amount of forms turned in. That really affects our school district in more ways than just getting free meals for the family.”

The district would like to get the forms collected by December 31 to meet the January 4 deadline for approval. “We’re trying to do a big push to get as many people to fill out applications as possible and turn them into me,” said Ogaard-Brekken. “Qualifying applications give money for education programs like Title. They get free meals from the school district, but the school itself gets a lot more revenue with the more approved free and reduced applications we get.”

There are benefits beyond free and reduced lunches for the families and students as well, including a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program this spring that requires an approved application. “For instance, the Minnesota State High School League bases any of their scholarships that can go to students that go to schools off of the free and reduced percentages,” said Ogaard-Brekken. “Families with 11th-12th graders get waived fees for high performance or AP courses. There is something coming out in the spring called Pandemic EBT. We had it this past spring, and they’re going to do another round of it. In order to qualify for that, the families must have an approved application on file with their local district. That’s a really big thing for the benefits for the families. But on the school district level, it’s a significant amount of money that Food Service doesn’t necessarily get, but the school district gets to help fund a lot of education programs.”  

Families should’ve received an email with the form, or they can get one through several other methods. “If you’ve received that email, the application is attached to that,” said Ogaard-Brekken. “Applications are also available on the school website (here). If you don’t have a printer and need one mailed to you, you can contact any of the school offices, and we can mail an application out to you. Applications can be turned into any of the school offices or given to me directly. They can also be faxed to the school. As long as you get that filled out an application into the school, they are able to get it to me, and I’m able to approve it.”