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Schools participate in meal program

School divisions in Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward are among the rapidly growing number of school systems across Virginia participating in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) — a federal program that allows schools in areas with higher poverty rates to provide breakfast and lunch to students at no charge. 

According to a news release from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office, there are 341 Virginia schools across 47 public school divisions that have enrolled in the program for the 2017-18 school year.

Officials said in the release there has been a 297-percent increase in participation in the CEP since the 2014-15 school year.

One school in Prince Edward County, one school in Cumberland County and three schools in Buckingham County have enrolled in the program.

Cumberland County Elementary School became qualified for the CEP in July.

The federal program marks qualification through identifying students in the division or county who may benefit from the program, for example, students who already receive assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or students who live in a household that receives Medicaid.

Cumberland County Public Schools Human Resources Director Dr. Elizabeth Jamerson said the program provides a valuable resource for students who need it.

“I think it’s wonderful that our students, especially in a low-income area, would have the opportunity to have breakfast and lunch at no cost to the parent,” Jamerson said.

Prince Edward County Elementary School qualified for the CEP this year, and all students at the elementary school can participate in the program without filling out an application.

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

Dr. Cecil Snead, division superintendent for Buckingham County Public Schools, said three schools in the division use the program — the preschool, primary and elementary schools.

“We’re just very appreciative of the fact that our students can receive a … nutritious breakfast and lunch that’s free of charge,” Snead said.