District considering free meals for all students

Apr. 30, 2014 @ 07:53 PM

The Vance County Board of Education is considering offering all its students free meals at school.

During a finance committee meeting Tuesday, members agreed to take a community eligibility provision to the full board for approval.

The provision is a four-year reimbursement program that allows school districts to offer breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge.

“This could do nothing but benefit us right now and our children,” Superintendent Ronald Gregory said. “We have to understand that we do have a lot of folks in the school system and a lot of people in the county. These people are hungry.”

To qualify, the district had to have an identified population of low-income students of at least 40 percent.

Vance County has an identified low-income student population of about 65 percent and, according to reports, could receive about $40,000 more in school meal reimbursement funds per year if the provision is adopted.

If approved, it would be in place for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Phillis Newcomb, director of Vance County Schools’ child nutrition program, said this would benefit all students, including those who didn’t want to be singled out for getting a free meal.

“It eliminates overt identification of students,” she said. “I know that although we have snacks in every line, some say, ‘That’s the free line. Go in that one; it’s got the cool meal.’ So it would eliminate that.”

Other benefits include getting rid of paperwork and increased breakfast and lunch participation.

“We spend tons of time at the beginning of every school year getting the applications processed, so that would really be a benefit,” Newcomb said.

The provision was created under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and the National School Lunch Act in 2010, and the program has already been successful in seven pilot states.

“It was not just a whim when they decided to do this, and they have had very positive results,” Newcomb said.

The provision is scheduled to be voted on at the full board’s next meeting May 12.


Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.