FULTON, NY – Fulton City School District has been approved for participation in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) offering free breakfast and lunch daily to all students districtwide.
Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, students in grades pre-kindergarten through twelfth enrolled at any of the six district schools: Fairgrieve Elementary, Granby Elementary, Lanigan Elementary, Volney Elementary, Fulton Junior High School, and G. Ray Bodley High School as well as students at Fourth Street CiTi BOCES location will be offered a nutritional breakfast and lunch each day, free of any cost to district students or families.
There is no application or fee required with no action needed from district families.
“They just show up, and students have free meals,” FCSD Superintendent Brian Pulvino said.
The CEP, under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, allows high-poverty schools or entire districts to offer all students breakfast and lunch for no charge due to funding from state and federal sources.
Fulton follows neighboring school district, Hannibal Central Schools, who implemented the CEP last year with great success, Hannibal Superintendent Christopher Staats said.
Fulton district officials took the year to follow Hannibal and similar districts implementing the program and do further research into the specifics of the CEP.
“We took a year to explore and observe. We really wanted to take our time to step back and make sure we understood what it entailed. Now, we are confident moving forward to the implementation stage,” Superintendent Pulvino said.
Both districts were found to be eligible as determined based on the population of “Identified Students” – those that qualify for free or reduced school meals without an application.
These children are directly certified, or eligible for free or reduced school meals without an application, because data matches indicate they live in a household that participates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP,) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Cash Assistance (TANF,) Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR,) or Medicaid, if identified as receiving benefits as part of the Direct Certification Matching Process.
Other qualifying students include those who are directly certified because they are in foster care, homeless, migrant, living in a group home as a ward of the state, or in Headstart.
At the time of application earlier this year, district officials claimed FCSD surpassed the required 40 percent of identified students, estimated at 52 percent of the district’s student population.
The program will remain in place in the district for four years, at which time, pending the program is still existing under federal government, re-application will be necessary.
“This opportunity starts at the federal level and is funneled down through the states. As we know, our government is constantly changing but we hope this program will continue to be in place,” Pulvino said.
Superintendent Pulvino said the district’s director of food services, Terry Warwick did a lot of the legwork in not only researching and understanding the program but preparing the district to implement it, including offering new and appealing food choices based on student feedback.
“She’s done a great job. She did most of the legwork and helped us really determine this was the right thing for us to do. This is something that will allow our food and nutrition services to remain strong and viable,” Pulvino said.
As the district moves forward with implementing the program, they will monitor food service production to ensure proper supports are in place to accommodate for anticipated increase in student participation and record such data.
District officials are hopeful to see an increase in students participating in school meals (generally recorded around 10 percent growth for first year implementation,) the elimination of any stigma associated with free or reduced meals, and the reduction of food problems for any and all students while in school.
“This is going to be great for our kids. We know there are a lot of challenges surrounding nutrition across the nation. It’s our goal to ensure all our students have the opportunity to eat a nutritional breakfast and lunch every day, the additional piece is that it’s at no cost,” Pulvino said.
For more information on CEP, or to find contact information for the district’s food and nutrition services, visit their website here.