Participation in Free Meals Program Shows Success in FCSD

FULTON, NY – The Fulton City School District began a new endeavor in the 2018-2019 school year by participating in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) offering free breakfast and lunch to all students districtwide.

“This is probably something that I don’t say enough, I’m very proud of the work of our school nutrition program,” FCSD Superintendent Brian Pulvino said.

The district’s participation in this program exceeded his expectations, he added.

In five months worth of data in the 2018-2019 school year compared to the same months in the 2017-2018 school year, participation in school meals has increased by more than 50,000 lunches served and more than 42,000 breakfasts served districtwide.

For breakfast served throughout the district, that boasts a 74 percent increase in average breakfasts served per day in the last school year.

“We predicted ten percent increase with breakfast and lunch, so we’ve exceeded that,” Terry Warwick, FCSD Director of Food Services.

As a financially self-supporting program, nutrition services looked into the CEP as a means to allow free meals to all students while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

Traditionally, the district is reimbursed for students classified as to receive free, reduced, or full-pay meals.

Under the CEP, the district receives the same federal and state reimbursement rate as non-CEP schools but are able to claim a higher percentage of “free” which increases the reimbursement.

“We’re able to claim, in our case, 86 percent of our reimbursement comes back at the free rate and 14 percent is at the full-pay rate. So that comes out to, for every breakfast that is served we get $1.96 back and for every lunch that is served we get $3.02,” FCSD Financial Director Kathy Nichols explained.

Despite such monumental increase in meal output, the program has been successful without any increases in staffing levels in nutrition services.

“I have an amazing staff,” Warwick said. “I have people that will just go above and beyond. They love it, they don’t have to collect charges anymore so the stigma is gone. They just want these children to eat.”

The program runs for a duration of four years at which time the district would be re-evaluated for continued participation.

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