Students to receive free meals

Published 2:29 pm Thursday, July 20, 2017

All Prince Edward County Elementary School students will receive school lunches for free this coming school year due to a federal program titled the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).

“Basically it allows schools to offer free nutritious, school meals to all students through our national school lunch and breakfast program,” said Prince Edward County Public Schools Supervisor of Food Services Bruce Davis. “We will only be doing it at the elementary school level this year.”

Davis noted that any student, no matter what their income base, will be able to eat breakfast and lunch for free without submitting an application.

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“In the past, anybody who was on free or reduced meals had to fill out a meal application,” Davis said. “They will not need to do that.”

Davis emphasized that that’s only at the elementary school; the county’s middle and high schools will still need to fill out applications.

However, Davis noted that there is an effort to eliminate the stigma that someone buying school lunch is from a low-income household.

“… That’s what we really want to push is parents to understand that everybody can eat at the school and everybody is equal, and that they don’t have to fill that application out,” he said.

The Prince Edward County School Board unanimously voted in support of beginning the application process for CEP at the May 3 meeting. At the meeting, Davis said the eligibility for CEP was contingent on the number of students who were considered “identified students.”

He said identified students include those participating in the 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 mark, the division would still be reimbursed at the same rate.

He said if the rate increases, then the division’s reimbursement would increase. With the division enrolled in the CEP program, the school is 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 for by federal funds.