Words by Anna Lee Vaughn | Image by Jenny Lynn Davis
The Jasper City and Walker County School Boards recently announced an exciting opportunity for students in the 2023-2024 school year.
Jasper City students will receive free breakfast and lunch, whereas students in the Walker County school system will receive free breakfast, lunch, and school supplies.
Jasper City’s Child Nutrition Program (CNP) Director, Beckie Martin, says the CNP continues to provide students with meals at the lowest cost possible. This coming year’s free meals are made possible by Jasper City’s participation in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which allows schools to serve breakfast and lunch to children without needing parents to complete school meal applications.
The 2023-2024 school year will be a pilot year for the free meals, and its continuation will depend on student participation. “When making decisions in our Child Nutrition Program, we always want our students to achieve their academic goals by providing healthy meals,” says Martin.
County Schools Superintendent Dennis Willingham says this grant for free meals is made possible by CNP Director Janell Aultman, Chief School Financial Officer (CSFO) Andy McCay, and Federal Programs Director Dr. Tanya Guin. The renewable grant will be received for at least the next three years.
Willingham says, “This is a game changer for many of our families throughout the school district. We have so many children whose grandparents, aunts/uncles, and foster parents are raising them. Many of our families who do not qualify for free lunch struggle to make ends meet. Our free breakfast/lunch program will relieve financial pressure and stress within our homes and communities.”
Through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, the county is also able to provide free school supplies to each student. The county will also cover costs for students taking vocational and academic dual enrollment courses.
“It is an honor and blessing to be able to help our students and their families as we all work together to make Walker County better,” says Willingham. WL