CURWENSVILLE — School board members have not given the go-ahead for the district to apply for a free meal service for students for the 2020-21 school year.
With directors acknowledging that district residents will be disappointed, Curwensville Area School Board did not give permission to place a directive on June’s business meeting’s agenda that would have given staff permission to apply for a free meal service for district students.
Concerns over possible revenue shortages for the district associated with the stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19 was part of the reason behind a lack of support for an application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision.
Directors said they could not support submitting an application.
“If the district didn’t have any other budget constraints, I would suggest we vote on it, but with the issues facing us I would have to say no at this point. There are too many unknowns,” Director Jeff Shaffer said.
Director Laura Pentz told directors she has been approached by several teachers who expressed concerns students may not be able to eat at school if they don’t have money to pay for breakfast or lunch. Business Manager Paul Carr said the district has never denied any student a meal.
Directors discussed whether the district would be better served by submitting a request to the USDA to participate in CEP program that would provide one free breakfast and lunch for each student in the district beginning with the 2020-21 school year. The deadline to submit an application is June 30.
According to information on USDA’s website, schools that adopt CEP are reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of students categorically eligible for free meals based on their participation in other specific means-tested programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
At last month’s combined business meeting and work session, the district’s cafeteria services Manager Vickie Bunnell reported the district would be required to subsidize the program annually at a cost she estimated at more than $122,000 because Curwensville does not have high enough percentages of students who are eligible for free and reduced priced lunches.
Carr reported, if the USDA would revise its reimbursement rate to the district for the meals its serves during the school year to the one it offers for the summer lunch program, it may prove more feasible to the district.
“If they would change the reimbursement rate to the summer rate, it would be great,” he explained.
Monday, Superintendent Ron Matchock said although parents have requested the district apply for program participation, especially since surrounding districts including Clearfield and DuBois school districts have been accepted into CEP, he is unsure that now is the time to do apply.
Director Gary Witherow said he is baffled by information presented to the board that local families cannot or do not provide their children with food.
“We as a society are being asked to take the responsibility of a family. I hate to think that there are parents who don’t feed their children or provide them with food. If we do this, we are taking away responsibility for parents who should be providing for their children,” Witherow said.
Matchock said the board can revisit the matter when preparing for the 2021-22 budget.