SCS: Free lunch for students could save district money - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

SCS: Free lunch for students could save district money

(WMC-TV) - Three free square meals each day for every student. Officials say that could be the reality in all Shelby County Schools next year.

District food officials say better fed students are better learners and free meals across the board would actually save the district money.

Shelby County Schools board member Shante Avant is excited about what could be "on the menu" next year.

"Making sure our kids have adequate nutrition to start the day and maintain their school day is very important," said Avant.

"You know, when a healthy kid has great food, they perform better," added Tony Geraci, SCS Nutrition Services.

Pending board approval, free breakfasts, lunches, and dinners would be provided using federal USDA funds specifically meant for high poverty districts. It is something that would lessen administrative costs by eliminating the need for free and reduced meal applications, which officials say the district loses money on anyway.

"Because money we receive from the USDA is $3.01 for a free meal and the combined payment from kids and the USDA for a paid meal is $2.61," said Frank Cook, SCS Nutrition Services. "So that's a 13 percent reduction in the amount we get for a full paid meal."

"How many employees are just tied to the paperwork associated with free and reduced lunch?" asked SCS Board Member Kevin Woods.

To which the director of nutrition replied, "Over 20 just in the central office."

Free meals for everyone would also eliminate the stigma some students on free or reduced plans feel. Although Title One funding tied to free and reduced meal data is among the issues the district wants to clarify before a final vote.

In addition to the free meal expansion, so-called "blended learning" was discussed Tuesday night.

Based on the model being used in Huntsville, Ala., digital devices loaded with curriculum will be provided to students in 16 pilot schools.

The results of financial audits from legacy SCS and the former MCS were released.

Unlike the scathing inventory audit conducted last year, these audits were mostly positive.

And while not discussed in depth, the superintendent said the forthcoming budget will be challenging with an estimated shortfall of nearly $50 million thanks to the formation of municipal districts.

As usual, many of the items discussed will be voted on during the next regular business meeting.

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