NEWBERRY — When school starts back on Aug. 20, every elementary school student in the Newberry County School District will receive both lunch and breakfast at no cost.
Carolyn Barnes, Child Nutrition director with the Newberry County School District, said this program is called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). According to the United States Department of Agriculture, CEP allows schools and local educational agencies located in low-income areas to provide no cost breakfast and lunch to all students.
This means that students at the following schools will receive lunch at no cost, Boundary Street Elementary, Gallman Elementary, Little Mountain Elementary, Newberry Elementary, Pomaria-Garmany Elementary, Prosperity-Rikard Elementary, Reuben Elementary and Whitmire Community.
“At Whitmire, the whole school will participate in CEP, that is because they are K through 12, and it would have been really confusing if half the school was CEP and the other half not. As a District, they made the decision to make the entire school CEP,” Barnes said.
While Mid-Carolina High, Mid-Carolina Middle, Newberry High and Newberry Middle are not eligible for CEP this school year, lunch prices will remain $2.35. Students at these schools will also be able to fill out an application, and if they qualify, they can also get meals at no cost.
Students at all schools in the District will continue to receive breakfast at no cost, a policy that has been in place for at least six years.
“Those students attending those eight schools will not have to complete no cost and reduced applications. Every year we have to start the year out with a new meal application on file, we can’t just carry it over from year to year. The students that go to those eight schools will not have to complete an application,” Barnes said. “This will reduce the stigma for there being some kids that get to eat free, and some that have to pay. So now it is an equal playing ground. Everyone gets to participate in the program at no cost.”
The quality of the food served in the District will stay the same, Barnes said they are not serving less quality food, they are just serving it at no cost to the students. Students will continue to receive a protein, a grain, a fruit, a vegetable and a dairy when they get their lunch. Nothing will change as far as meal preparation or sizes.
The CEP has been around since 2014, when it came out the District looked at implementing the program District wide, but the numbers were not high enough. This year, Joey Haney, assistant superintendent of operations and administration, made a recommendation to the Board to start with the eight elementary schools in the District.
“I felt our best base line to get this implemented in this District was to go with a common grade band. Elementary was the first thought, they are the smallest and the youngest, they have even less control getting lunch money to school,” Haney said. “We thought that was a good starting point and the Board supported that.”
Haney added that the plan is, as they progress and get the program promoted and the count increases as far as participation, they will continue to add schools to CEP.
“It’s important that our students participate because participation is a big portion, we generate our own funds, and the only way we get our funds is through USDA. To pay our salaries, uniforms, equipment, so it is important our students participate in our schools,” Barnes said.
When it comes to participation, students do not have to get a full meal for it to count toward participation.
“That is a big part of the CEP, we have to have the buy in from our community. Those students that use to buy lunch, those funds are no longer there. That’s why it is so important the students participate,” Barnes said.
So if there is a student that brings a lunch to school, and they like peanut butter and jelly, the District is peanut butter free and does not offer that meal option. The student can bring the sandwich, go through the line and pick out a fruit, milk and a vegetable and that would count as a reimbursable meal.
“As long as you take three of the five,” Barnes said. “We are going to educate teachers and the community about this, explain that it doesn’t have to be the full meal.”
The previous cost of a lunch at an elementary school was $2.10, this will mean parents will be saving $10.50 a week, for one child. This will bring a household saving, for one child, to approximately $378 for one school year.
“We are excited just for the fact we can give all elementary kids a meal, we’ve all heard over time is that when kids are not hungry it helps their learning process in the classroom,” Haney said.