EDEN, N.C. – The Rockingham County School Board is rolling back free breakfasts and lunches for students in some schools because the program is cost-prohibitive.
“Regardless of how many kids qualify, all children need to make sure they have a full stomach while they are trying to learn at school,” Gary Allison told WFMY. “That way they can get a good education and not worry about being hungry at school.”
Allison and other parents are upset because Rockingham County Schools officials announced in December they’re cutting a free-for-all lunch and breakfast program for students in 16 schools that don’t qualify for government reimbursements.
Previously, all Rockingham County Schools participated in the Community Eligibility Provision of the federal school breakfast and lunch program, which allows schools to give food away to all students when a certain percentage qualify for federal free and reduced lunch reimbursements.
At the 16 Rockingham county schools that no longer qualify for the CEP program, students will have to buy or bring their own lunch starting February 1. Student breakfasts cost $2, while lunch is $3, according to WRAL.
“The whole thing makes me angry but I don’t know because there really isn’t nothing that we can do about it,” parent Kristen Hodge told WFMY. “There’s nothing we can do about it. But I just think that the kids should come first.”
Hodge said the change will mean the family will have to adjust its budget to cover lunch expenses for the six of seven Hodge kids who currently rely on the CEP program.
“We will just go back to doing things the way we did. We will pack it, we will have to save money, we will have to make sure he has enough juice boxes for sandwich meat and stuff to last the whole month,” Hodge said. “It will be more of just having to budget.”
The Greensboro News & Record reports school board members cited a lack of funding as the reason for cutting the CEP program, and vowed to re-evaluated individual school enrollment in the future.
“The board came to this conclusion after determining that the CEP program is not self-sustainable. A shortfall in funding has led to a deficit in a district already struggling to meet its budget,” according to the site.
Rockingham Schools Superintendent Rodney Shotwell held a press conference announcing the change last month, and district officials mailed applications for federal food assistance to students attending the affected schools.
“A child who deserves and qualifies for assistance with breakfast and lunch will receive it,” Shotwell said, according to the News & Record. “It doesn’t matter if it’s CEP or traditional means. Those children who are qualified to receive that assistance will receive it.”