5 Warren County schools qualify for free food program

The entire populations of several Warren County School District buildings may soon receive free breakfast and lunch every school day.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act would provide free breakfast and lunch for every student at three district elementary schools and two high schools.

According to Director of Business Services Jim Grosch, Younsgville Elementary Middle School, Youngsville High School, Sheffield Elementary School, Sheffield Middle High School, and Warren Area Elementary Center meet the eligibility requirements.

It is possible another school could qualify in the near future.

“Beaty-Warren Middle School is just on the border of it,” Grosch said during Monday’s meeting of the school board’s finance committee.

Eisenhower Elementary School, Eisenhower Middle High School, and Warren Area High School do not qualify.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program is available to schools located in low-income areas. Schools with at least 40 percent of students that qualified for free meals the previous year qualify.

The district expects to save some money, and will be looking further into the economics, but the program is really about students.

“This is something that we think is fantastic for kids,” Grosch said. “It provides much-needed meals.”

“It’s going to make a difference for a lot of those kids,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “There are kids that will hang around on a day when they’re sick… just to get something to eat.”

With no need to collect payment, making the change would speed up the lunch line process and give kids more time to eat and socialize.

“They don’t want to lose time in the line,” Stewart said. “This system will speed things up. Every child is eligible for the meal.”

Part of the requirements for the program is that the district cannot collect household applications for the program.

Another benefit to the district is the elimination of unpaid meals and the paperwork and administration that goes into trying to recoup those dollars.

The administration presented information about the CEP to the committee. Grosch said he has reached out to the state regarding the possible change and, if approved, an item could be before the board for a vote in May.

Grosch introduced the possibility of more free meals for students.

“We are also going to be looking at free dinners for the kids,” he said. “Every child in the district, 18 years and under.”

“There’s a lot of potential here,” Grosch said. “We could feed even more kids before they go home at night.”

There would be no cost to the district, if it qualifies and is approved for the program.

The district is exploring the possibility, he said.

“A lot of districts have moved in this direction,” Nutrition Group Regional Manager Melissa Kingen said. “It’s exciting. It does take a lot of the burden off.”

COMMENTS