Taste of success: Meal numbers up, but some still left out
With a week of the new academic year behind them, county school officials say they’re pleased with their new meal program – and they are working to include 7th and 8th graders at Cloudland High School who were unexpectedly left out.
Earlier this year, members of the Carter County Board of Education voted to participate in the federal Community Eligibility Program for a one-year pilot program. The CEP is a federally subsidized program aimed at providing free meals to children.
The school system had the option to institute the program system-wide or target specific schools. The board opted to participate in the program for grades K-8 for the first year.
Carter County Director of Food Services Marisa Potter told board members at Monday’s work session it was assumed the 7th and 8th grade students at Cloudland would be able to participate as well. But, the school system was told by program administrators those students are not included because those grades are housed at Cloudland High School, and ineligible for participation according to the program’s guidelines.
However, Potter said parents of Cloudland’s 7th and 8th graders should not give up on the program just yet.
“We are working diligently to try to make this happen,” she said, adding she has been in constant contact with the program administrators and has also contacted U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, who represents Tennessee’s First District and also serves on the House Education Committee.
Potter said the school system is working to secure eligibility for the affected Cloudland students, but at this time, last year’s Free/Reduced Meal Program guidelines are still in effect for those students.
Potter also reported a marked increase in meals served this year over last. She said she compared Thursday, Aug. 14 – the fourth day of school – to the fourth day of school from the 2013-2014 school year and learned there were 1,074 more breakfasts and 629 additional lunches served this year
Potter said she would like to see the increase in meals served continue to insure the program’s success. “Every child, every day,” she said. “That is our goal, to feed every child every day.”
That increase, Potter added, will also increase the money returned to the county from the federal government through the CEP. But, she noted, it has resulted in a lot of hard work for school cafeteria staff.
“We weren’t sure how much food to prepare,” she said, adding praise for the food services employees. “It’s been exciting, it’s been new, but it has not been easy.”
Before implementing the program, Potter worked with the food services staff to redesign the school menus to bring back items popular with the kids, but still maintain the healthy food standards set by the federal government. She said the changes have been popular with not only the kids, but with their parents as well.
“We’ve had a lot of great comments,” Potter said. “We’re really excited and the parents are really excited.”