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Schools need parents’ help with free meals program

Students at Junction City and Perryville elementary schools will all eat breakfast and lunch for free this school year. But in order to make that happen, the schools need parents to help by filling out a specific form.

Parents are being asked to fill out the Household and Income Form (HIF) either before or during upcoming back-to-school fairs at the two elementary schools.

Katie Ellis, director of food services, said filling out the form only takes a couple minutes, as long as parents know what to put for their annual gross income.

“We’re really, really excited about this initiative and hopeful for what it will mean for students in our district,” Ellis said.

The goal is to get forms filled out for 100 percent of school families. Those forms are used to verify that the schools qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), a federally-funded program that reimburses meal costs for schools serving low-income areas.

“The CEP is a provision under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that eliminates the need for schools in low-income areas to collect applications for free and reduced-price meals,” according to a news release from Boyle County Schools.

CEP pays for all students’ meals, regardless of income level. That helps eliminate any “stigma” that might have existed for students receiving free or reduced-price meals before, Ellis said.

In order to qualify, at least 40 percent of a school’s students must participate in needs-based programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program. Ellis said majorities of students at Junction City and Perryville elementary schools meet the criteria to be certified for the CEP.

Getting parents of all income levels to fill out the forms is part of the requirements of the CEP program, Ellis said.

Perryville parents can pick up copies of the form that are posted outside the school and fill them out in advance of the school’s back-to-school fairs. A fair for first- through fifth-grade students is scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. Aug. 9; a kindergarten fair is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Aug. 13.

Parents can also fill out the forms during the fairs, but Ellis encouraged completing the form in advance so parents can get to the classrooms with their kids quicker.

At Junction City Elementary, parents are expected to fill out the forms during the fair, while they’re in the classrooms with their kids, Ellis said. If a parent wants a form in advance, they can check with the Junction City office at (859) 936-7524.

Junction City’s fair will be the evening of Aug. 13, but a specific time has not been set yet. Ellis encouraged parents to check the school’s website and Facebook page, as well as the Boyle County Schools Facebook page, for information when the time is set.

Last year, students who paid for their meals paid $1.25 for breakfast and $2.30 for lunch. That means those students’ families will be saving $3.55 each day thanks to the CEP program, Ellis said.

“What’s exciting to me is that we would have the opportunity to have more children who would become eaters in our cafeteria through these programs,” said Ellis, explaining that as more students participate in the school meals, it helps the district better control its costs. “… Right from the beginning, it will be a win-win for everybody.”

Ellis said the district will be monitoring the CEP schools’ meal participation to see if it goes up as expected.

“At the end of the day, we’re here to serve students and ensure they have access to healthy food,” she said. “That’s our goal, so we want as many students as we can to participat e in our program.”