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More Blount County Students to Get Free Meals

posted Oct 3, 2016, 6:30 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 6:31 AM ]
Blount County Schools has expanded a federal provision that will allow every child at participating schools to receive free meals.
During Thursday's meeting, the Blount County Board of Education added Mary Blount Elementary School to its list of schools that are participating in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act's Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). It will serve free breakfasts and lunches for every child.

Lanier Elementary and Rockford Elementary participated this past school year in the pilot year. Both schools will remain on the list next year.
The students' families won't have to fill out free- and reduced-price meal applications or sign up for the program. All meals must meet National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) standards. Thus, students won't receive free a la carte or snack items. "We're grateful that the Board of Education has extended this program to another school," said Troy Logan, the district's school nutrition supervisor. "We appreciate the board's forward thinking, and we know that Mary Blount's families will be very excited and pleased to participate next school year."

The bottom-line mission is simple. "We're going to feed a lot of kids who previously didn't get to eat," Logan said. "Mary Blount had 65 percent of its student population qualify for free and reduced-price meals this school year. However, we know those numbers didn't tell the whole story. We had families who qualified but didn't return paperwork. We also had families who didn't qualify for free- and reduced-price meals, but they're still struggling. We're excited to offer this program to them.
"Our motto is: 'You can't teach a hungry child.' The food service department wants to play a role in education. We want to get them started with breakfast, then provide them with a good lunch." Families should be aware they will need to complete free- and reduced-price meal applications for any child who doesn't attend one of the participating schools. 

Blount County Schools will be reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of students identified as eligible for free meals using direct certification and other lists of eligible students. All children living in households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance can bypass the standard process and be "directly certified" for free school meals. Any costs for serving these meals in excess of the federal reimbursement must be paid from nonfederal sources. Blount County will absorb these costs, but it appears at this point that the district has no additional local cost for the pilot year due to high participation rates at both Lanier Elementary and Rockford Elementary. CEP's intent is to eliminate the administrative burden of collecting household applications and to improve access to free school meals in eligible high poverty school districts and schools. Logan, who also serves as the district's fiscal administrator, advised that it has simplified accounting and claims processes as well. "However, the greatest benefit to our district is the potential for increased student participation," Logan said. "Our ultimate goal is to feed all children at these three schools."

Other action

In other action, the school board approved:
• Borden Dairy Company's low bid for milk products;
• 13 budget transfers, totaling $125,343, within the general purpose school fund and a $712 transfer to the food service budget;
• and a $9,000 budget increase in undesignated capital to purchase security cameras for Townsend Elementary School.

By Matthew Stewart- The Daily Times