Federal program feeds more GCS students

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- A federal program allows Guilford County schools to provide more free meals for more approximately 28,000 students.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows students in high-poverty schools to receive free breakfast and lunch, regardless of their individual circumstances. The provision, a facet of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, is being expanded nationwide for the 2014-15 school year after seeing success in the first seven locations.

"With nearly 60 percent of students already qualifying for free or reduced-price meals, we know our students are hungry and some may not apply for assistance for a variety of reasons," says Jim Faggione, director of School Nutrition Services. "CEP will allow us to reach more hungry students and serve them more effectively by eliminating the need for an application."

Aycock Middle School is one of 58 schools that qualify for the program. Teacher Heather Johnson said with it, her students will be able to focus in the classroom.

"I think it is shocking that so many of our families struggle to have enough money to pay for lunch so I think we're very fortunate that it is in place to help out so many kids and families," Johnson said.

Eligible schools are those that have at least 40 percent of its students identified in one of several categories of need, such as: Participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), being in foster care, being enrolled in Head Start programs and migrant or homeless students.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools have 24 CEP schools. Based on figures from the 2013-2014 school year, 56.2 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Only one school in Surry County qualifies for CEP, however, all elementary schools in the county have the universal free breakfast.