The Kentucky Department of Education announced last week that Clark County is one of 102 counties in Kentucky that are eligible to participate in the first year of a universal free meal option that will make it easier for low-income children to receive meals through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.
Kentucky is one of three states participating in the “Community Eligibility Option,” which will allow schools in high-poverty areas to eliminate the use of applications and provide free breakfast and lunch to all students in schools within the districts that have more than 40 percent of its students who qualify for free or reduced meals.
Six schools in Clark County — Fannie Bush, Central, Strode Station, Shearer, Clark Preschool and the Day Treatment Center — meet the requirements for participation in the program because they have more than 40 percent of their students who are certified for free or reduced lunches.
Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon said the new option will make it easier for both the schools and parents to ensure that students get healthy meals.
“Community eligibility is a great way for schools to cut through burdensome red tape for themselves and low-income families so that children in high-poverty areas have access to the nutrition they need to learn and thrive,” said Concannon. “Schools will benefit from reduced paperwork, parents will not have to fill out duplicative forms and the children in need get better access to healthy school meals.”
School districts with eligible schools have until July 29 to notify the Kentucky Department of Education Division of School and Community Nutrition if they want to participate in the 2011-2012 school year.
Schools participating in the Community Eligibility Option agree to provide meals to all children free of charge, and will be reimbursed by the USDA based on the their pre-existing data of eligible students from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program and the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program (K-TAP).
Schools will still be responsible for paying the remaining difference between the federal reimbursement amount and the total cost of the program.
The Community Education Option is among the early reforms enacted as a result of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010.
The act required the option be phased in over three years and authorizes the USDA to select up to three states to participate in the option in the 2011-2012 school year. The option will be offered to additional states in successive years and will be available to all states beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.
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