WOOD RIVER — The federal government has found Wood River-Hartford School District 15 students eligible for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) grant to receive a free breakfast and lunch every day.
“We looked at this grant program for a long time,” Superintendent Patrick Anderson said. “To make it feasible for our district, money-wise, our free or reduced lunch count had to fall within a certain criteria to qualify.”
Once a district qualifies, students receive the free meals for four years before the district has to reapply for the grant. Parents of students at Hartford and Lewis and Clark will not have to pay for their children’s meals until the 2019-2020 school year as long as they remain a student in District 15. After the 2018-2019 school term, District 15 can reapply for a four-year grant extension.
“Kentucky and Illinois were the first states to implement this program,” Anderson said. “It’s now gone nationwide. Districts have to show the need in their area in order to qualify. Now that we have this grant, it is our wish that every student in the school participates in both breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is so important and our students need to take the time in the morning to eat so they don’t start their day off distracted from hunger. This is an option worth taking and we hope parents will encourage their kids to participate.”
Each student must enter a pin number when they go through line for meals to record how many students are participating. The more students who take advantage of the free meal program, the more likely the school will be eligible to receive the grant again after four years. Eligibility for the program initially was determined over a period of three years before District 15 applied.
Over the 100 days of summer, Lewis and Clark Elementary also participated in the Twigs program, which offered anyone younger than 18 a free lunch daily.
“I believe we had roughly 40 kids daily between Wood River and Hartford come in and eat lunch over the summer,” Anderson said. “That’s a large number, really. If a person is under the age of 18, they could come in and eat with no questions asked. Lisa Gilliam from Trinity Methodist Church in Granite City started the program after she sought to help one individual family. She saw more people had need due to parents’ work schedules or lack of income or food in the home. The food is donated and there are some corporate sponsors who help cover the cost for that program.”
East Alton School District 13 already is utilizing the CEP grant and all students are able to receive a free breakfast and lunch daily. East Alton-Wood River High School District 14 is a separate district and would have to apply individually for the federal grant.
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