Long County public schools currently provide free breakfast to all students regardless of their ability to pay, but have not yet met the statistical requirements necessary to be eligible for the Community Eligibility Provision that would provide free lunches for all students.
School Food Director Amanda Underwood told the Long County Board of Education during a regular meeting Monday that the system may be eligible for the CEP next school year.
The CEP is a meal service option made possible by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and was “phased in” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to the Georgia Department of Education website.
“CEP permits eligible schools to provide meal service to all students at no charge, regardless of economic status, while reducing burden at the household and local levels by eliminating the need to obtain eligibility data from families through (annual household applications),” according to gadoe.org. CEP schools only use eligibility data obtained from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, to determine the federal cash reimbursement for school meals provided by USDA, the website says.
Underwood informed board members that the system’s schools could apply for the CEP if at least 40 percent of students can be certified through one of the federal programs like SNAP or TANF.
With the present number of directly certified students, the system is ineligible for CEP, she said. According to Underwood, 31 percent of Smiley Elementary School students are directly certified, 36 percent of Walker Elementary children are directly certified, 34 percent of Long County Middle School students are directly certified, and 28 percent of Long County High School students are directly certified.
She said she intends to monitor the numbers by looking for students who are homeless or migrants.
Underwood added that Long County students who participate in after-school enrichment activities can receive a “simple snack” such as juice and crackers. The after-school activities must provide at least 15 minutes of enrichment to be eligible for snacks, she said.
The food service director also told BoE members that the system’s food service department is trying to provide students as much fresh and home-made food as possible, and reduce the amount of pre-made foods served. She showed slides of such home-made items as chicken taco salad.