06/01/14 — School district eyes free lunch program

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School district eyes free lunch program

By Melinda Harrell
Published in News on June 1, 2014 1:50 AM

The Wayne County Board of Education's finance committee has agreed to send a recommendation to the full board to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision, which would allow for 12 schools in the district to offer free lunch and breakfast to all their students.

CEP is a national initiative designed to provide free meals to students in predominantly low-income areas.

The 12 recommended schools are Brogden Middle, Brogden Primary, Carver Elementary, Carver Heights, Dillard, Eastern Wayne Elementary, Fremont, Goldsboro High School, School Street School, Spring Creek Elementary, North Drive Elementary and Wayne Academy.

WCPS Director of Child Nutrition Barbara Ward said to qualify for CEP, the district must have more than 40 percent identified free lunch students.

The district meets the 40 percent qualification standard, but only 70 percent of those students receive free lunch. To offer free meals to the whole district, while participating in CEP, would cost around $1 million. That shortfall would be a cost the Wayne County Board of Education would have to approve.

"This is not what I recommend at all," Mrs. Ward said. "There is a magic number. If the schools have a total 62.5 percent of identified students qualified for free meals, then we can actually claim all of those meals at no cost."

Mrs. Ward suggested narrowing the scope of program participation to the 12 identified schools because 62.62 percent of students in those schools receive free meals, and the child nutrition program would subsequently receive a 100 percent reimbursement for all meals that are served.

Should the board agree to have these schools participate in CEP, then unpaid meal charges would be a burden that would be alleviated, as the students eat at no cost to the district because of the full reimbursement.

As of March, the unpaid charges for the selected schools amassed to $69,588.

"As far as we can tell, it is an advantage all the way around," Mrs. Ward said.

Should the board agree to participate in CEP, the schools would be reevaluated for qualification in four years and at the end of each year, the board would have the option to terminate program participation.