KEENE, Texas — Keene ISD students will have new, healthier meal options that won’t cost them a dime this school year.

Starting this fall, the district qualifies for federal funds through the Community Eligibility Provision program, which provide free meals to all students.

“It’s going to make such a big difference in our families,” said Ricky Stephens, Keene ISD superintendent.

About 82 percent of the districts 1,100 students qualify for free and reduced lunch, Stephens said. Some of them are too ashamed to ask for help.

“There’s a little bit of a stigma being on free and reduced lunch,” Stephens said. “This eliminates that stigma because there’s no way to tell now between the richest kid and the poorest kid because they’re all getting a quality meal for free.”

Students won’t just get a free lunch. They’ll have newer healthier options.

“We focus solely on fresh food daily,” said Rick Ward, director of area operations at Southwest Food Service Excellence, the district's new food partner.

Students will have a rotating menu with multiple options each day, and an all-you-can-eat salad bar.  About 75 percent of the menu items are made from scratch.

“We expect the kids to come in and say wow,” Stephens said. 

More than 200 districts in Texas including Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD qualify for the CEP funds. Some districts only offer free meals to all students at some schools.

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