The skinny on school lunch

Pre­sen­ta­tion breaks down fund­ing for BOE

The Covington News - - SCHOOL BEAT - By Jenny Thompson

Jan Loomans, di­rec­tor of New­ton County School Sys­tem Food and Nu­tri­tion, pre­sented in­for­ma­tion about how her de­part­ment func­tions at Tues­day night’s Board of Ed­u­ca­tion meet­ing.

A large por­tion of Loomans’ pre­sen­ta­tion dealt with how stu­dents qual­ify for the na­tional free and re­duced meal pro­gram and what hap­pens if stu­dents ha­bit­u­ally do not have money for cafe­te­ria food.

“We never want a child to go hun­gry,” Loomans said.

Stu­dents whose fam­i­lies have a food stamp case num­ber, are home­less or are fos­ter chil­dren au­to­mat­i­cally qual­ify for free meals. A fam­ily’s an­nual in­come can also de­ter­mine el­i­gi­bil­ity; for in­stance, a fam­ily of two with a yearly in­come of $17,797 qual­i­fies.

Fam­i­lies of two mak­ing $25,327 a year or less qual­ify for re­duced meals.

Fed­eral law re­quires schools to give ap­pli­ca­tions for free and re­duced meals to ev­ery stu­dent.

Al­though ap­pli­ca­tions are han­dled on an honor sys­tem and the sys­tem can­not legally ver­ify a fam­ily’s in­come at the time of ap­pli­ca­tion, Loomans said ev­ery year be­tween Oct. 1 and Nov. 15 her de­part­ment is re­quired to au­dit 1.5 per­cent of the stu­dents re­ceiv­ing free and re­duced lunches.

This year the sys­tem ver­i­fied in­come for ap­prox­i­mately 150 stu­dents of the more than 10,000 en­rolled in the pro­gram. Roughly 53 per­cent of New­ton County Schools’ stu­dents eat free and re­duced meals.

Of the fam­i­lies au­dited this year, 35.7 per­cent failed to pro­vide proof of in­come.

Those fam­i­lies re­ceived a let­ter say­ing if proof was not pro­vided in 10 days, full pay­ment for meals would be due.

Loomans­said stu­dents can ei­ther pay for their meals with cash at the reg­is­ter or through their Meal­Pay ac­count set up on­line.

“On the el­e­men­tary level, if they ar­rive at the cash reg­is­ter with­out money,” Loomans said, “we do al­low the child to take that meal.”

Par­ents are no­ti­fied im­me­di­ately when a child can­not pay for their meal.

She said work­ers are in­structed to try to catch stu­dents who ha­bit­u­ally do not have money for break­fast or lunch be­fore they get to the cash reg­is­ter and to give them a peanut but­ter and jelly sand­wich.

Stu­dentsin­mid­dle­orhigh­school are given the op­tions of bor­row­ing money from a friend or eat­ing a peanut but­ter and jelly sand­wich.

Loomans said a school prin­ci­pal and coun­selor ul­ti­mately de­cide what ac­tion to take, such as a home visit or so­cial worker in­ter­ven­tion, if a stu­dent con­sis­tently does not have funds for a meal.

An­other part of Loomans’ pre­sen­ta­tion was to break down how the fed­eral gov­ern­ment re­im­burses the sys­tem for stu­dents eat­ing free and re­duced meals.

Sys­tems are re­im­bursed $2.47 for stu­dents eat­ing at no cost, $2.07 for stu­dents eat­ing at a re­duced rate and 23 cents for stu­dents who pay the full $1.50 or $1.75 for their lunches.

“So, for our paid stu­dents, we re­ceive less money than for our free and re­duced stu­dents,” Loomans said.

Be­cause only $1.73 or $1.98 is col­lected from stu­dents pay­ing in full and $2.47 is col­lected from stu­dents re­ceiv­ing free and re­duced meals, the sys­tem “loses” 49 to 73 cents for ev­ery meal bought by stu­dents not el­i­gi­ble for free and re­duced meals.

Adult meals re­ceive no fed­eral re­im­burse­ment, which is the rea­son adult vis­i­tors pay more for same amount of food given to stu­dents.

More money is given for break­fasts in schools con­sid­ered a se­vere needs school, which is de­fined as a school with more than 60 per­cent of its stu­dents qual­i­fy­ing for free and re­duced meals. Six schools out of 20 in the sys­tem are cat­e­go­rized as se­vere needs.

Loomans also dis­cussed the cost ef­fec­tive­ness of two cashiers for one serv­ing line.

She es­ti­mated the sys­tem saves $25,000 by not pur­chas­ing sec­ond serv­ing line equip­ment and us­ing ex­tra elec­tri­cal out­lets.

The con­clu­sion of Loomans’ pre­sen­ta­tion de­tailed how the food and nu­tri­tion de­part­ment is sep­a­rate from the school sys­tem and re­ceives no gen­eral fund bud­get money for salaries and equip­ment.

The state re­im­burses the de­part­ment $36,000 a month for salaries and equip­ment, but that amount has de­creased over re­cent years.

She ex­plained how the de­part­ment must main­tain 1.5 months’ ex­penses in cash re­serve.

New­ton County schools serve ap­prox­i­mately 5,300 break­fasts and 13,700 lunches each day.

In other news from Tues­day night’s Board of Ed­u­ca­tion meet­ing,

• Ad­min­is­tra­tors and head cus­to­di­ans at­tended train­ing ses­sions on Nov. 12 to make cer­tain all cus­to­di­ans are fol­low­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate pro­to­col in cleans­ing the schools. Sys­tem ad­min­is­tra­tors re­cent­ly­pur­chasedapro­duc­tu­nique in its abil­ity to kill theMRSAvirus on both por­ous and non­porous sur­faces. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the man­u­fac­turer is fol­low­ing up with all schools to en­sure that the prod­uct is be­ing used prop­erly.

• A meet­ing to dis­cuss a twoyear plan for ren­o­va­tions toNew­ton High School­was held Nov. 6. State Fa­cil­i­ties Con­sul­tant John Ra­m­age, ar­chi­tect Ray Moore, New­ton High Prin­ci­pal Joe Gheesling, NCSS Main­te­nance and Op­er­a­tions Di­rec­tor Bill Rosser and con­struc­tion man­ager Don Wood at­tended the meet­ing. A walk through of New­ton High is sched­uled. As­so­ci­ate Su­per­in­ten­dent for Busi­ness and Ad­min­is­tra­tion Deb­o­rah Robert­son said the school’s gym and kitchen are pri­or­i­ties for re­pairs.

Pocket change: More than 10,000 New­ton County Schools’ stu­dents, or 53 per­cent, qual­ify for free and re­duced meals. Six county schools have 60 per­cent or more stu­dents qual­i­fy­ing.

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