Students at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary and Middle/High Schools are receiving free lunch in the month of December. Over 500 applications were submitted by families, according to WDC Food Services director Sue Motzko. At the end of December, Motzko will file for district reimbursements on the cost of students who typically pay the full lunch price but who filled out an application for reduced lunch in December.

The program continues in its third year as a way of increasing awareness for the compensatory revenue benefits that come when parents and guardians fill out the free and reduced lunch application and their children qualify for the program.

“It has been our experience that a number of families did not realize they would qualify,” Motzko said in an email. “The increased numbers of applications not only benefit the family it also increases the compensatory revenue for the district.”

With the compensatory revenue, the district gains educational benefits, from additional classes to books, according to retired WDC Food Services director Sandie Rentz.

Motzko and Rentz also encourage the state and federal legislature to make a separate program more available to school districts, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program grant. The grant gives free fruits and vegetables to students but requires a minimum percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunches, with this year at 65%. At WDC, the elementary school has 55% and the middle/high school around 45%, according to Motzko and Rentz.

“I just firmly believe that when we did have it, it was amazing because the kids got a fruit or vegetable every day, an extra as a snack. … A lot of times it would be a fruit or vegetable that wasn’t real common so they get exposed to it,” Rentz said. “I just thought it was so important but we just don’t qualify anymore.”