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County school board approves free lunches

By: Shayla Terry

Gone are the days of paying reduced and full price for breakfast and lunches at Crenshaw County schools. For the 2017-2018 school year all students will receive free breakfast and lunch.

The venture was made possible by the Community Eligibility Provision program sponsored through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). According to the Crenshaw County Board of Educations CNP director Ruth Bayman, the program correlates with the amount of students within the school who dwell in government assisted households, like SNAP and TANF.

“Our numbers have just reached an amount that with the qualifier and the multiplier that the USDA sets, we can now afford to do this,” Bayman said.

Through the CEP program everyone eats free, and the board is reimbursed for a portion of the funds spent to feed the students for free.

“It has to support itself,” Bayman said. “We financially make it work by increasing our participation in free lunch. The students who probably wouldn’t eat school lunch and bring their lunch will now eat, so the participation is going to go up.”

The free lunches could be a financial risk for the board because they have to have the funds to pay for lunch, and the lunch program cannot be supplemented by other budget’s funds.

“For the past year we’ve talked about this and thrown around the idea in meetings,” Bayman said. “We made spreadsheets and compared our numbers from this year to last year and project that it’s going to work. The numbers were so close we decided it was the right time to try it. It would be great for our students and community to have the burden of cost off of them.”

Numbers of students receiving free and reduced lunch in school systems affect a lot of other programs that the school system and community are eligible for in the future.

“It affects funding like Title I. Title I funds come down from the federal government and they pretty much pays salaries for schools,” Bayman said. “It can affect special education grants and pre-k grants. It was a lot of research to determine that the program wouldn’t hurt us on the other side of funding, and it won’t.”

The state child nutrition program approved Crenshaw County School for program on June 30.  Crenshaw County Schools include: Brantley schools, Luverne schools and Highland Home School.