This school year, all students in the Russellville Independent School District will get a free breakfast and a free lunch under the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision.
The provision is part of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010” and has been phased into qualifying schools across the country over the past three years.
“We have looked at this very closely, in the past couple of years and when we looked at the numbers, we felt like this is a good time for us to be a part of this program,” said Russellville superintendent Leon Smith. “With 56 percent of our students already qualifying for free or reduced lunch, it just makes sense for us to do this.”
To be eligible for the provision, at least 40 percent of the students in a particular school must have been identified as being eligible to receive free meals through direct certification during the prior year. Directly certified students include those receiving benefits under SNAP or KTAP, as well as those who are considered migrant, homeless, or foster.
The federal government reimburses the cost of meals at 1.6 times the percentage of directly certified students. According to the Kentucky Department of Education, 63.21 percent of the students at R.E. Stevenson Elementary School and 49.34 percent of the students at Russellville Junior/Senior High School were directly certified during the 2013-14 school year.
“We think this is a win-win for parents and students,” Smith said. “With the economy the way that it is, we know that people are struggling and this will help out everyone - especially those that are just above that line where they can receive assistance.”
When the new school year begins, each student will receive a Household Income Form. All families, including those who would not have qualified for free and reduced meals in previous school years, are being asked to submit the Household Income Form. Only one form will need to be completed per family. Those families who believe that their student(s) will be directly certified will need to provide their SNAP or KTAP case number on the form. All information on the form will be kept confidential.
“Some parents may be a little hesitant to fill that out if they know their child doesn’t qualify for free lunch, but we actually need them to fill out that form too,” Smith said. “They need to know that everything is kept confidential.”
In addition to meeting the requirements of the Community Eligibility Provision, the forms will help school administrators determine other programs for which a student may qualify and funding status for student services such as technology, Family Resources and Youth Services Center, and Title 1 programs.
Adult meals, including meals for teachers and others who come into the school to have a meal with a student, will remain at $2.85. A la carte items will still be sold to students who wish to bring extra money for such purchases. Children who have a positive balance left in their lunch accounts from the 2013-14 school year may use that money for a la carte purchases, or parents may apply to the cafeteria director of their child’s school for a refund.