Randolph County School System expands free lunch program

All elementary and middle schools will be able to offer free meals

Randolph County Schools Board of Education was presented with the list of schools that will be operating under the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) for the 2024-25 school year.

“School Nutrition plans to expand the Community Eligibility Provision or CEP program to all middle schools, Uwharrie Ridge 6-12 and Eastern Randolph High School,” Kelly Green, director of school nutrition, said a May meeting. “As you may know, this past school year, we added all elementary schools, Ramseur Elementary has been operating under it since 2015, and Southeastern Randolph Middle.”

The CEP allows schools with an identified student percentage (ISP) with free or reduced lunch of more than 25% to serve free breakfast and lunches to all students in the school.

The schools then in turn can claim the meals based on a percentage of those ISPs multiplied by a USDA-defined multiplier factors (currently 1.6) to determine their free reimbursement.

In total, 25 schools will be operating under CEP in Randolph County this upcoming school year, all operating at 70% or higher reimbursement and with five that will receive over 100% reimbursement.

In addition, the board also approved keeping the high school prices set at $1.25 for breakfast and $2.45 for lunch.

“The lunch prices we established in 2017-18 are the same … today,” said RCSS superintendent Stephen Gainey. “The USDA requires us to raise the prices 10 cents every year to keep us in line with what’s called paid lunch equity. But the USDA also said we didn’t have to raise it if we ended our normal budget year in the [nonprofit school fund service account] with a positive or zero balance.

“I just want to make sure we recognize Kelly because she’s been involved with managing this program for a long time. Child Nutrition is not an easy program to manage and there’s a lot of moving parts. From 2017-18 to now is a long way to not raise prices and that’s a credit to Kelly and her staff in the way they manage resources in that program.”

The Randolph County Schools Board of Education will next meet June 3.

By Ryan Henkel