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Guilford County Schools Respond To Their Dropping Of Federal Free Lunch Program

Guilford County students will have to apply for free breakfast and lunch after the district announced it's cutting ties with a federal program.

GREENSBORO, NC (WFMY) - Guilford County Schools will no longer offer universal free breakfast and lunch as part of a federal program this school year.

The district is opting out of a program called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) that provides funding to offer meals for students at schools in low-income areas. Representatives with the district say the number of students identified through CEP is declining. Guilford County Schools has been using the federal nutrition program CEP for five years, but this upcoming school year they will not.

A main reason the system says they're dropping out is because to get funding from grants in other aspects they have to be able to clearly identify their poverty levels. With CEP, they aren't able to do that.

"Poverty levels in your district certainly has an impact on how those grants can come into the district. So having a true and accurate measure of that is important for us," said Angie Henry, the CFO with Guilford County Schools.

The program's elimination means families in low-income areas who don't get assistance will need to apply to get free breakfast and lunch for the 2018-2019 school year. Families already getting food stamps and other government assistance will not have to apply for free meals at school.

58 out of 127 Guilford County schools participated in the CEP program. School representatives said those 58 schools qualified for the program because at least 60% of the students came from low-income households. They said the approximate other 40% of students were getting free food unnecessarily.

The schools said it was Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras' call. The goal is to have a more accurate depiction of poverty in the school system moving forward.

Don't get it twisted. The school system still says it's still all about feeding kids.

"We're still feeding kids, and feeding kids is our priority. This was not about taking food away from children," said Henry.

You can apply for free and reduced priced school meals here. The schools also said they will be handing out applications at open house before the upcoming school year.

For those who don't qualify or do not need free lunch, Guilford County Schools says breakfast is $1.00 and lunch is $2.85.

WFMY will be following up with the Chief Financial Officer for more answers.

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