Beginning today, students in both Clinton City and Sampson County schools will receive free lunches.
During recent Board of Education meetings for both systems, members approved allowing all students to receive the basic meal for free. This benefit is available through the Community Eligibility Program, a meal service option for school and local educational agencies in high poverty areas. The program also allows schools to offer free breakfasts, which has been happening for several years.
According to school officials, the CEP allows eligible schools to provide breakfast and lunch to all students free of charge without the burden of collecting and processing school meal applications. Schools that have adopted CEP are reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of enrolled students participating in other federal assistance programs.
“Our students will now be able to count on two nutritious meals every school day, without any forms to complete,” Jeff Swartz, child nutrition director for Clinton City Schools, previously said. “This can help low-income families to stretch limited food budgets while reducing our students’ hunger. This will assist reducing barriers in the healthy development of our students’ bodies and minds.”
In both systems, students were paying $1.85 per meal. With the implementation of free lunches, parents who were paying full price for their child’s meal can now save approximately $350 a year.
For students who have paid and have money in their lunch account, parents can request a refund or the money can be applied to the payment of extra food items, which will still be available for all students to purchase.
Students who attend Sampson Early College High School do not qualify for the program. Since breakfast isn’t served at the location, the school doesn’t meet the requirements necessary for total reimbursement.
To qualify for the CEP program, districts must agree to provide meals to all students at no cost and maintain a total count of breakfasts and lunches served to students. Districts must also agree not to collect applications for CEP schools. The only applications to be collected would be for the SECHS.
Sampson County School superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy shares the same feelings as Blount towards the program.
“It will give all of our kids an opportunity to receive free breakfast and lunch every day,” Bracy stated in a previous article. “It’ll turn out to be a wonderful financial blessing for our parents and students.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.