Last updated: September 03. 2014 6:48AM - 1349 Views

Contributed photo | Across the Public Schools of Robeson County, 24,000 students are eligible for free lunch this school year.
Contributed photo | Across the Public Schools of Robeson County, 24,000 students are eligible for free lunch this school year.
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LUMBERTON — A new school year offers a new curriculum, new friends, new experiences and much more.

For students across the Public Schools of Robeson County, this school year offers a new experience for 24,000 students — free lunch.

The district received free breakfast for kindergarten through eighth grade students for the new school year through the Grab N Go program. The free lunch is made possible through the Community Eligibility Provision.

The provision is a four-year reimbursement option for eligible high-poverty districts and schools. The school district must have a minimum of 40 percent “Identified Students” based on enrollment. This is not the same as the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

The requirement refers to students who receive direct services through the Department of Social Services such as SNAP, TANF, FDPIR, Homeless, Runaway, Migrant, Head Start, Even Start, Additional Foster Children and non-applicant students approved by the district.

The overall goal of the program is to improve instruction by making sure nutrition needs are satisfied for each student.

Not every school in the Public Schools of Robeson County qualified for the program, but the application was made for the district as a whole. All the schools were approved except for the Early College program at Robeson Community College. Early College students will also receive free lunch, but through the Universal Free program.

Section 104(a) of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 amended the National School Lunch Act to provide an alternative to household eligibility applications for free and reduced price meals in high-poverty local educational agencies and schools through the Community Eligibility Provision. The overall purpose of the provision is to improve access to nutritious meals for students in high-poverty areas by providing meals to all students “at no cost” to the students.

Though the USDA, and not the U.S. Department of Education, administers the National School Lunch Program, there is a connection between Community Eligibility and programs operated under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, because state educational agencies and LEAs often use lunch program data to carry out certain Title I requirements.

The program reduces paperwork at the school district level and increases breakfast and lunch participation. School districts must agree to maintain a total count of breakfasts and lunches served to students at the point the students receive the meal. The program also eliminates the need to collect free and reduced-price applications from households for the purpose of National School Lunch Program in participating CEP schools.

The Public Schools of Robeson County is enrolled in the CEP Program for four years. The district has the option to review the program every year and make decisions as to whether to continue to participate.

This story was submitted by Tasha Oxendine, public information officer for the Public Schools of Robeson County.

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