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BOE moves forward with free meal program

News Staff Writer

The Escambia County Board of Education moved forward with a plan to provide free breakfast and free lunch for all students.
At the meeting Thursday, June 14, the board voted to apply to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) for 2018-2019 for all Child Nutrition Program (CNP) cost centers (lunchrooms / cafeterias).
This is a program of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
CEP allows schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) located in low-income areas to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students and eliminates household applications to determine eligibility.
“We anticipate we will have the program in place this school year,” Superintendent John Knott said. “Participation in the CEP appears to be a win-win for everyone concerned.”
All students in the Escambia County public school system will have access to free nutritious meals without the “free lunch” stigma.
Parents won’t have to worry about applications or lunch money. School staff will not be tied up collecting money for meals. Administrators will have reduced paperwork and administrative costs, with no need to track unpaid meal charges.
The CEP was authorized by Congress as a part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and was phased in over a period of three years, starting with D.C., Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The program was available nationwide beginning July 1, 2014 (school year 2014-15).
School systems are required to do the following:
* meet eligibility requirements.
* serve free breakfasts and lunches to all students during the four-year cycle.
* count total breakfasts and total lunches served to students daily.
* agree not to collect household applications for school meal programs.
* determine if non-Federal funds are needed to cover costs above USDA reimbursement.
In other business, the BOE recognized the county’s high schools for the amount of scholarships for their 2017-2018 senior classes:
* Escambia County High School – $5,710,636
* Flomaton High School – $3,044,258
* W.S. Neal High School – $2,035,993