Inside of Arizona College Prep High School in Chandler, the nutrition staff is hard at work preparing to feed students for the first day of school.
"A little nervous but excited," Director of Food and Nutrition for the Chandler Unified School District Jenny Bracamonte said. "We are thrilled to welcome our students back."
Bracamonte says the school, including the cafeteria, is brand new and welcoming high schoolers for the very first time. But the days of few options on a tray are long gone.
“It’s kind of a food court experience where they can build their own tacos and burritos," she said. "We have a weekly rotation station called 'test station' where they can sample new foods."
What's not new this year is that all students will once again get those meals for free.
“They don’t have to pre-register or anything," she said. "They just come to the cafeteria. All of our sites serve both breakfast and lunch."
No matter which district your child attends in Arizona, they'll be able to get a free meal every day during the 2021-2022 school year. That's because the USDA extended a federal program aimed at helping families throughout the pandemic.
"This is one way that they can make everything easier for us to make sure we access all students," Bracamonte said. "We also really don't know what everyone's financial situation is right now and it's a huge benefit for families."
Applications are not required, but Bracamonte recommends filling one out anyway because your child may be eligible for additional benefits like Pandemic EBT, which gives families additional funds for food.
"As well as discounted testing fees and sport fees," she said. "So, it's still really advantageous to fill that out."
Bracamonte also recommends checking with your individual school for breakfast times and menu options.