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Twelve Rowan-Salisbury schools to provide free meals to all students

All students at 12 Rowan-Salisbury schools will receive free breakfast and lunch this year through a federal program called Community Eligibility Provision.

The program allows schools with high poverty rates to feed all children both breakfast and lunch for free.

The Rowan-Salisbury schools included are Overton, China Grove, Koontz, Hanford-Dole, Knollwood, Landis, Isenberg, North Rowan and Hurley elementary schools, as well as Knox Middle School, North Rowan Middle School and Henderson Independent High School.

The purpose, Child Nutrition Director Libby Post said, is to “really help the schools that have a lot of needy kids.”

It helps take down all the barriers and promote school meals, she added.

Post said the Community Eligibility Provision will greatly simplify the process to get meals to students in need.

In the past, Social Services has sent over a list of families who are receiving food stamps. Children in those families are automatically signed up for free lunch.

“We process 6,000 students that way,” Post said.

Other families below the poverty line were required to fill out “cumbersome” federal forms, she said.

“A lot of times, you go back and forth with parents,” she said, adding that they often leave out vital information.

“It is confusing,” she said. “I think this is going to be a lot easier.”

Schools that are not eligible for Community Eligibility Provision will continue processing free and reduced lunch applications similar to the way they have in the past. This year, however, there is an online application parents can fill out. Every school has computers parents can use to fill out the form, and they also have a few hard copy applications available at every school. Libraries will also be available for parents to fill out the appropriate forms.

Post said the online application is easier, because it requires parents to fill in all the vital information before moving on to the next section.

“We’re definitely making a move toward less paper,” she said.

Instead of sending out lengthy applications to all students this year, the school nutrition department sent out a single-page flier, as well as a ConnectEd phone message to each family.

The cost of breakfast is $1, and lunch is $2.25 for elementary and middle school students. High school lunches cost $2.50. On reduced lunch, lunch costs 40 cents, and breakfast is free.

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