For four years now, the parents and guardians of our public schools here in Baldwin County have been able to let their children enjoy breakfast, lunch and snacks for free but that could soon be in jeopardy if all parents do not submit a meal application by next month’s deadline.
The Baldwin County School District (BCSD), one where 86% of the students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, is in the process of reapplying for Provision 2 of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) which would continue the free meals program for another four years. However, as the October 23rd deadline for state approval for Provision 2 draws closer, school officials have concerns about the program’s future due to those whom have not completed a meal application as of yet.
“In order for Baldwin County School Nutrition program to continue to operate successfully we would need at least 78% of the students to qualify for free and reduced meals. ” said Susan Nelson, School Nutrition Director for the Baldwin County School District. “Currently, we have 66% qualifying for free and reduced meals with only a month left to meet the deadline for review,” she added.
Superintendent Dr. Noris Price feels that the Milledgeville-Baldwin community would take a huge hit should the free meal program expire. “The federal school lunch program is absolutely critical to helping our students build healthy minds and bodies. We live in a highly impoverished community, and in many cases for our students, these meals may be the only access our children have to quality nutrition. Every student needs to be healthy and have access to nutritious food if we want them to succeed in our classrooms. That’s why this program is so important and that’s why I’m asking all families, regardless of income, to please fill out a meal application immediately,” she said.
As it is now, all families of the public schools in Baldwin County receive free meals, however, if BCSD is unable to reach the application requirement, parents can expect to pay $1.25 for breakfast and $2.50 lunch, impacting local families to the tune of $675.00 per year for each student.
Families of the BCSD have multiple ways in which they can submit their application. The first, and easiest way, is to visit the website www.lunchapplication.com and enter the information after following the prompts. The online process takes only a couple of minutes to complete. You can also find the link embedded on the BCSD’s School Nutrition webpage at www.baldwincountyschoolsga.org/school-nutrition. Parents can also visit their child’s school, or the BOE main office, and fill out a paper application to submit in person.
“Whether you feel your family qualifies or not, your application may be the one that makes the determination for our entire district,” Dr. Price added. “Many families do not feel they qualify for free meals but they may qualify for a reduced rate, which would help us meet the target. Even if you do not want to participate we ask that you take an application, put the student's name on the top portion and write “decline benefits” or “not interested.” This allow us to make sure that all students have submitted an application.”