The student news site of Robinson High School

Knight Writers

The student news site of Robinson High School

Knight Writers

The student news site of Robinson High School

Knight Writers

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Back to School Issue: CEP Fuels Students with Free Meals

All students at Robinson will receive free lunch for the upcoming school year.
Photo Cecilia Cheng
Example of school lunch. This balanced and delicious meal came with mash potato with gravy, chicken bites, a bread roll, apple slices and is even served with a juice box.

Hillsborough County Public Schools recently announced that they will be offering the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) for the 2023-2024 school year. This allows every student at Robinson to join the breakfast and lunch program free of charge, without the need for a meal benefits application.

Alongside the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP), the CEP was created through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Schools across the US with at least 40 percent of students recieving benefits from programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TNAP) and Medicaid qualify for this program. There are currently 174 schools in Hillsborough County that are eligible for the provision.

“Our students spend a lot of time at school working on rigorous classes or they spend over 12 hours here at school through athletics and extracurriculars… they shouldn’t have to worry about bringing money and updating their lunch accounts,” said David Brown, Principal of Robinson High School.

Approximately 48 percent of Robinson’s students received free or reduced lunch during the 2022-2023 academic year. Interestingly, this number was lower than the average percentages observed in previous years.

“The year prior, everyone received free lunch due to COVID.  So last school year, some families just forgot or didn’t reapply for free/reduced lunch,” Brown added.

The provision not only emphasizes the issue of food security, but also provides nutritious food options to all students, ensuring that individuals will have the energy necessary for optimal learning.

“Children need healthy meals to learn,” said Van Ayres, Hillsborough County Public Schools Interim Superintendent, in a statement letter, which will be coming home with students on the first day of school. “Hillsborough County Student Nutrition Services offers nutritious, well-balanced meals for students of all ages and backgrounds. Please encourage your child(ren) to participate in the school meal program.”

Long-time consumers of school lunch, such as Sabrina Gonzalez (’24), are eager to learn about this new provision.

“In my opinion, school lunch is important because it allows those who don’t have much time or even the resources to make lunch for themselves at home to be able to get nourishment throughout the school day,” said Gonzalez who has been purchasing school lunches for the past three years. “Even if you did bring your own lunch, school lunch provides a great alternative and balanced meal. They also have allergy accommodations and there are many different meals to choose from daily, even if you’re picky.”

However, even with the program, many students, such as Katie Angular (’25), prefer to bring lunch from home.

“Personally, I think the portions are small and I also feel the food that is given to the school isn’t fresh,” Angular said. “When I pack my own lunch, I always look at the nutrition in it so I can have energy and stay focused for school. Having a healthy lunch can make going through the rest of the day bearable.”

The benefit will continue to be offered at Robinson until the 2026-2027 school year, as it is renewed on a four-year cycle.

“The only drawback to students not having to complete a Free or Reduced lunch application is that students [already] on Free or Reduced lunch get other benefits. They get a free SAT and ACT test paid for, athletes also get the insurance paid for or reduced based on their meal status,” Brown said. “However, we will have a different form for these students and their families to complete in order for the student to qualify for these benefits.

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About the Contributor
Cecilia Cheng, Print Managing Editor
Cecilia Cheng is a senior at Robinson and the Print Managing Editor of Knight Writers. This is her third year on staff and her third year as an editor. A self-proclaimed "Swiftie," Cheng is constantly listening to some form of pop music, but her current favorites include Taylor Swift, Clairo and Pheobe Bridgers. When she's not listening to music, Cheng can be found taking photos, hanging out with friends, thrifting or catching up on her favorite TV shows. As of right now, her absolute favorite show is "Heartstopper," but it fluctuates frequently. This love of TV and movies is reflected in her large discography of reviews on the Knight Writers website and former position as the A&E editor for two years. Cheng makes it clear that A&E is her favorite section. Although she is a big fan of A&E, Cheng enjoys writing articles regardless of their section. "My favorite thing about journalism is the storytelling aspect of it," Cheng said. "I love how I’m able to express my opinion and give people that are underrepresented a voice as well." Outside of journalism, Cheng is involved in many other aspects of the Robinson community, holding positions as the Secretary of Women in STEM and the Social Media Manager of Mu Alpha Theta. Despite her connections to the school, Cheng is excited to graduate and see what awaits her. She hopes to head to her top college, Northeastern, where she plans to major in Biology. However, she isn't prepared to forget her time as a Knight Writer and plans to pursue her journalistic interests as well. "Right now, I’m looking to go to college and major in Biology, to go the pre-med track. I haven’t decided where I want to go yet, but I really hope I get into Northeastern. Also, if it’s possible, I want to double major in Journalism or I would join my college’s newspaper." (Profile by Charlotte Stone)
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