The Paris School District will provide free breakfast and lunch to all students in the 2017-18 school year which begins in August, according to Superintendent Wayne Fawcett.
“The program is called Community Eligibility Provision and it allows students to eat free of charge,” Fawcett said last week. “In order to qualify, your district has to have a high enough population getting free and reduced lunches.”
Free and reduced lunches are provided based on a students’ family income. In the Paris School District, 77 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced meals, Fawcett said. With an enrollment of 1,068 students in grades Kindergarten through 12, there are 772 students qualifying for free and reduced meals and 286 students paying full price for breakfast and lunch.
“School districts get extra funds called National School Lunch funds,” Fawcett said. “These funds are designed to offset lost revenue from students on free and reduced meals. We expect during the first year of this program, we will have to supplement the school district’s food budget with an extra $18,000. We can afford that because we’re expecting an additional $250,000 in National School Lunch funds. We can obviously pay an extra $18,000.”
Fawcett said that in going to free meals for students, “the Paris district will join about 50 districts in Arkansas that do this.”
Fawcett cautioned that free meals may not be permanent.
“It’s something that we’re going to try,” he said. “It may not be permanent. We’re going to try it and see how it goes. Hopefully, we can keep it going for years, but we’re going to have to assess it each year.”
Fawcett also said district employees and adults who eat in district cafeterias will still have to pay for lunch.
“Employees aren’t eligible,” he said. “Employees don’t eat free. For adults, there is no free lunch.”