Kentucky schools risk losing free meal program

It could become harder to keep your child fed every day if the U.S. House of Representatives passes a reauthorization bill making changes to a program that provides free lunches at qualifying schools.

It’s called the Community Eligibility Program, or CEP. It provides free breakfasts and lunches to all students at schools with a poverty level of 40 percent or higher. A rule change in this bill would change that poverty level to 60 percent. That means 343 schools in Kentucky, many right here in our viewing area, would no longer qualify for the free meal program.

The cafeteria at Central Elementary in Marshall County fills for the best part of the day: lunch time. The free meals make it even better.

"Just having that little extra money a month can go along way," School aid Sheri Wyatt said.

 Wyatt watches over the children at lunch. She also has a son in second grade.  

"I’ve kind of depended on that extra money a month to pay certain bills," Wyatt said.

At schools that don’t qualify, the meals would usually cost $1.85. That means parents save $333 per year for each child.

If Congress passes a reauthorization bill, that school and three others in the district would no longer be able to provide free meals. Director of Personal Angie Fisk says that would leave only one Marshall County school with the program.

"It was one of those things in the beginning they didn’t know if this was really happening," Fisk said.

Fisk says parents in the district have gotten use to the free meals after four years.

"You’re looking at having to take that back, and that’s something you really didn’t want to have to face," Fisk said.

Parents who absolutely need the assistance will still get it. Fisk says they will just have to go through an application process.

Others, like Wyatt, will be left worrying about another meal.

A number of schools in our area would be affected by the change. Click here for the list. The document is large, so you can click to zoom in and see the information. 

For other meal options if your child’s school is impacted head to this Kentucky Department of Education page

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