Students will eat free this year at H. W. Wilkey and Caneyville Elementary Schools, thanks to a grant that will provide cost-free breakfasts and lunches for all.
“Over the years, people asked us, ‘Where’s the help for the working people?’” said Grayson County Schools Food Service Director Kristy Hodges. “When we learned about the opportunity to feasibly offer free meals to an entire school, we definitely wanted to pursue it… for the help to families, and for the benefit of students.”
Principals Jonathan Williams and George Meredith expressed high hopes for the future school year, and are both excited about what they can now offer students - some of whom may only get a decent meal while at school.
Williams, who is beginning his first year as principal of H. W. Wilkey Elementary said, “I think it’s wonderful because it helps all families, no matter the income, and in these economic times, any little bit helps. Any time we can help families, it’s a great thing.”
Caneyville Principal George Meredith added, “This is a high poverty level community. I think it is a nice thing for our community and as more students have lunch, it will be a welcome break for the parents.”
“If there is a student in a situation where they have to worry about food, then they don’t have to worry anymore,” Williams said, adding that his school’s cafeteria, known as The Bulldog Cafe, will be open at 7:00 a.m. each school day, as soon as the school’s doors open, to serve students free meals.
In addition to easing families’ financial burdens, school administrators hope that participation in the schools’ breakfast and lunch programs will increase and positively effect students’ success in the classroom.
Hodges pointed out that studies indicate that students who eat a healthy breakfast and lunch perform better in their educational pursuits within the classroom, in addition to being healthier.
Hodges, along with Superintendent Barry Anderson, Assistent Superintendent Doug Robinson, and Chief Finance Officer Kerry White, analyzed the family income data for students at each of the local schools in April and found that these two elementaries qualified for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) grant because of the very high percentage of students already receiving free ro reduced lunches there.
“The majority, approximately 75%, of students in these two schools were already receiving free or reduced lunches in the previous school year,” said Hodges.
The CEP is part of the Healthy, Hungry Free Act of 2010 and is directed to schools with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students, based on direct certification percentages.
Students qualifying for SNAP, KTAP or income-based Medicaid, as well as those who are foster children are automatically eligible for free school meals. The CEP grant allows schools to multiply the direct certification percentage by 1.6, and if the number then equals 100 percent of students, it can offer two cost-free meals each day to all children who attend there.
While only two local schools were eligible for this particular grant, Lawler Elementary School students will continue to receive free breakfasts through a different Provision II program.
“Unfortunately it is not feasible for the other four schools to implement CEP at this time, due to not as high direct certification numbers,” Hodges said.
Despite this, more schools could obtain the grant in the future, as CEP eligibility is reevaluated for all schools annually.
For now, families with students in the other four schools are welcome to complete the Family Meal Application to find out if they qualify for free and reduced lunches based on family income.