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Cabell County students eat free

Aug. 05, 2013 @ 11:38 PM

HUNTINGTON -- All students at 15 Cabell County schools will be served breakfast and lunch at no cost through the continuation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Community Eligibility Option program.

The program operates differently than the free and reduced meals program that's been around for years. The latter is determined by family income and is dependent upon parents or guardians filling out and returning required paperwork to the school.

The Community Eligibility Option is built around a direct certification system, which uses the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to enroll low-income children for free meals. If 40 percent of a school's students are directly certified as eligible for food stamp benefits, then that school qualifies for the program.

This year's schools include the Altizer, Central City, Cox Landing, Culloden, Guyandotte, Highlawn, Hite-Saunders, Milton, Peyton, Salt Rock, Southside and Spring Hill elementary schools; Huntington East and Huntington middle schools; and the Cabell County Alternative School.

"The CEO program is a different way of qualifying students for free meals," said Rhonda McCoy, the director of Food Services for Cabell County Schools. "Instead of only looking at individual income, the USDA considers direct certifications from (Department of Health and Human Resources) and the overall economic health of a community. This approach casts a larger net, providing students who might not otherwise participate an opportunity to receive nutritious school meals."

Even though students can eat for free, parents and guardians still need to submit the free and reduced meal forms, which affect the amount of federal reimbursement the county receives for each meal served.

"For us to be able to offer these free meals to everyone, we have to have as many forms returned as possible," McCoy said. "Otherwise, we can't recoup enough money to make the program feasible. The forms are also crucial to helping the district qualify for additional grants and other federal funding."

The district mailed free and reduced meal forms to all of the county's families earlier this summer. The forms can be returned by mailing them directly to the Food Service Department. Forms also can be filled out online at www.wvschoolmeals.net/Register.aspx.

In the county's other schools, students qualify for free meals (those who qualify for reduced meal prices are categorized as free by Cabell County Schools) by having their parents or guardians fill out the income forms. Classes start in Cabell County on Thursday, Aug. 8.

The income eligibility guidelines for 2013-2014 are: $21,257 for a household of one; $28,694 for a household of two; $36,131 for a household of three; $43,568 for a household of four; $51,005 for a household of five; $58,442 for a household of six; $65,879 for a household of seven; and $73,316 for a household of eight. For each additional person, add $7,437 in annual household income.

For more information, call the Food Services Department at 304-528-5048.

School start days

Area school districts start heading back to class this week, with first days scheduled throughout the month of August.

Cabell and Wayne counties start Thursday, Aug. 8, except for Pre-K, which starts Wednesday, Aug. 14.

St. Joseph Central Catholic High School will start Wednesday, Aug. 7, while the grade school will start Monday, Aug. 12.

Students in Lincoln County, W.Va.; Ashland Independent; and those attending schools in Lawrence County, Ohio, start back Wednesday, Aug. 14.

Mason County students return Monday, Aug. 19.

Putnam County students return Thursday, Aug. 22.

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