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Free meal program sought

The Prince Edward County School Board unanimously voted in support of allowing school officials to begin the process that could lead to the elementary school offering free breakfast and lunch to its students.

The action, taken during the board’s Wednesday meeting, directed Bruce Davis, the supervisor of the division’s food services, to begin preparing the necessary paperwork.

“(The Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP) allows low-income schools to offer meals to all students, no matter free, reduced or full price, without the need to collect applications or for them to give us pay for their meals,” Davis said.

According to Davis, eligibility for the CEP is contingent on the number of students who are currently considered “identified students.”

Davis said identified students include those participating in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Head Start. Identified students means homeless students, runaways, migrant youth or foster children.

“At the present time at the elementary school, we are at 54.01 percent (of identified students),” Davis said. “That’s the number the (Department of Education) is going to use to qualify us for CEP.”

He said reimbursement for the meals is based on the identified student percentage.

“We take that number or percentage, we multiply it by a factor of 1.6 to determine the percent of meals that we would be reimbursed for,” Davis said.

He cited that the eligibility cycle is four years, and within the four-year time span, if the division drops under the 54 percent, the division would still be reimbursed at the same rate.

He said if the rate increases, then the division’s reimbursement would increase. If the division were to enroll in the CEP program, the school would be reimbursed for 86.4 percent of the meals.

“The remaining percentage, which would be 13.6, would be paid at the paid (rate), the 34 cents,” Davis said.

He said in order for the division to be reimbursed, the remaining 13.6 percent of unreimbursed meals can’t be paid by federal funds.

Meals at the county’s middle and high schools would continue to be paid at full price.

During the public participation period of the school board meeting, Richard Altice said he wasn’t in favor of taking part in another government program.

“Taking people’s responsibility and duties makes them more dependent,” Altice said. “I don’t understand why our county sees fit to take control of duties and responsibilities that belong to the parents as stipulated in the state constitution.”