JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Students in the Jonebsoro School District will now get free breakfast and lunch this year.
The district was approved for a new meal program called the community eligibility provision (CEP).
CEP allows schools in low-income areas to provide free meals to students without having to collect applications.
"It would allow for every child to eat free breakfast and lunch with us. It is no cost to them or their families, they don't have to provide personal data for us anymore. We still have to keep up with the same type of records, number of meals that we serve at each school, and we have multiple reports that we turn in," Jonesboro Assistant Superintendent Sue Castleberry said.
Schools eligible for CEP must have more than forty percent of the students as Identified students.
Identified students are those certified for free meals without the use of household applications.
"These are students and children who come from foster homes, migrant families, or if they receive any kind of federal assistance and some other criteria, basically those are the things that establish if a child is a direct service child," Castleberry said.
CEP is available to the Jonesboro Public School District because 53% of the students are Identified students.
The school did a lot of research over the summer and is excited to add this free meal program to the schools.
"We did our research about the program, we wanted to make sure it didn't affect our funding, our title one funding and SLA money and you work through a formula with the state department and you determine if it is something that is feasible," Castleberry said.
In addition to free meals, CEP also helps cut down on paperwork for parents and administration while also cutting down time spent in the cashier lines.
"We are so excited because in the past we have allowed kids to charge when they needed to and they are not able to pay so they district would have to pick that up at the end of the year. They paperwork is much different now it is very easy for us. The kids will go through the lines as they always have, they will slide their ID card and that will help us keep up with our reporting," Castleberry said.
Castleberry said the meal plan will be an easy move for the district, but they are also working on informing parents of this change.
"We have it out on social media and we are finishing up sending a letter to every parent in the school district, over 61 hundred kids and it will explain it. Then our open houses are next week, they begin Monday night, and all our principals and counselors will be telling parents about it. We will also have our food service managers head booths at every school and we will be able to answer any questions," Castleberry said.
Castleberry said the district is very excited about this opportunity to provide free meals to the kids.
She said students' nutritious needs are important to the district.
"It is just what is right for kids and we would be very negligent in our efforts to address the needs our of kids if we did not do this," Castleberry said.
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