Trimble, Federal Hocking Approved For Free Lunch Program

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Two Athens County school districts will be providing free lunch to students for the upcoming school year.

When students return to school at Trimble and Federal Hocking in a few weeks, they will now have the option to eat two meals per day at school at no cost. Both districts had provided free breakfast to the students for the past several years, but now, through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) free lunch will be served as well.

The program allows for districts with a certain percentage of students considered “identified” to provide free lunch to the entire district.

“The goal is to set it up so that every child who wants to eat can eat for free,” said Federal Hocking Supt. George Wood.

The program will benefit not only the students of the district but their families as well.

“Our only goal is to help families. They are our top priority,” said Trimble Local Schools cafeteria supervisor Kathy Rushing . “The community recently showed their support to Trimble by passing the tax levy, this is one way we can show them our appreciation.”

Students would still have to pay for any extra items they wish to purchase during lunch according to Rushing.

The program provides districts with a way to provide free meals to all students, provided the district has enough students that would qualify for free lunch.

School eligibility is based on the number of students who meet the “identified” definition. Identified means that students are certified using methods other than the traditional paper form for free and reduced lunches, meaning directly certified. Students who are directly certified for free meals are on the basis of the family’s participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Ohio Works First (OWF) and the extension of benefits to students within the same household. Also included are homeless, runaway, migrant, Head Start or foster children with court papers.

To be eligible, according to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), districts and/or schools must: meet a minimum level (40 percent) of identified students for free meals in the year prior to implementing the CEP; agree to serve free lunches and breakfasts to all students; not collect free and reduced price applications from households in participating schools; and agree to cover with non-federal funds any costs of providing free meals to all students above amounts provided in federal assistance. Reimbursement is based on claiming percentages derived from the identified student percentages.

According to the ODE website, benefits of the CEP include, an innovative option to reduce administrative paperwork and costs, while making it easier for eligible children in low-income communities to receive free meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs and it may improve breakfast and lunch participation.