MILLEDGEVILLE — With more than 80 percent of Baldwin County public school students receiving free or reduced meals last school year, the school system has seen the percentage of students qualifying for free and reduced meals continually rise every year.
This academic year, the school system is participating in a federal school meal program, known as Provision 2, that will provide every student breakfast and lunch at no charge for the next four years, regardless of the student’s free, reduced price or paid eligibility category.
“Our percentages for free and reduced students has reached a level that Provision 2 is something we needed to look into. We have to have a high enough percentage of free and reduced meals to keep this program running,” said Jeanne Starr, director of school nutrition and food services for the Baldwin County public school system. “This is a wonderful benefit to our community; it’s a great thing. It’s just economical for us to do this. I’ve been here for three years, and [the number of students on free and reduced] has only increased since.”
With the school system participating in Provision 2 this year, all participating students will be served breakfast and lunch meals at no charge for the next four consecutive years. Provision 2 is a special assistance alternative of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) since the publication of regulations in 1980.
“During the first year, known as the base year, there is no change in procedures,” Starr said. “We’re going to take a financial loss the first year. After that first year, participation is expected to increase to such a level that we will begin to regain those losses.”
In return, Provision 2 offers schools a reduction in administrative burdens associated with the distribution of free and reduced price meal applications. Households experience a reduction in burden since they are not required to complete the free and reduced price meal applications or pay for meals.