Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Free Meals For All W.O. Parmer Students Could Improve Learning
By Amanda Wade

In Butler County, one school is testing out a new program that makes breakfast and lunch FREE for all students, and some teachers say it is helping in the classroom.

W.O. Parmer Elementary is now the first school in Butler County to participate in a federally funded program that makes sure no child goes hungry in school.

The Community Eligibility Program, also called C.E.P., allows schools that serve low-income children to offer free meals to all of their students, not just the ones who qualify for free or reduced meals. Butler County's child nutrition director, Linda Perdue, says the program is federally funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.

School officials say more than 85% of W.O. Parmer's students qualify for free or reduced meals. Perdue says even though the meals are free, they follow USDA nutrition guidelines, "The fresh fruits and vegetables. And the vegetables and the fruits got to be served daily. And the student has to get one or the other. At breakfast they've got to have the fruit, and at lunch they get one or the other."

Lillian Gardner, a kindergarten teacher at W.O. Parmer says she is noticing a difference in her classroom, "Anytime a child is hungry, they're not learning. They're thinking about, you know, they're hungry. So, getting a good breakfast and lunch will surely help them to do more thinking."

Perdue says with a full priced breakfast and lunch combined costing around three dollars each day, the program is saving many parents hundreds of dollars for each child at WO Parmer.

Perdue also says they are looking into piloting a supper program at another school in the county to provide a free meal for kids in after school programs and are hoping to add more schools throughout the county into the C.E.P. program each year.