Alcorn County considers free lunches for all students

county_alcorn_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – An Alcorn County School Board member and the district’s business manager met recently with the county tax assessor and tax collector to determine what tax revenue would be needed to provide free lunches to all students in the county school district.

Board member Carroll Morton and business manager Misty Whittemore are trying to assess what the cost would be to the school district to provide free lunches districtwide.

“This conversation started last September when some parents at the board meeting were upset that children could not charge meals at the school,” Morton said.

The cafeteria manager must work within school policy that says children who do not qualify for free lunch must pay, but the district also says that a child who is hungry must be fed.

“We didn’t have an answer for them,” Morton said.

After researching options, the school board asked the district’s food service supervisor, Peggy Bundy, and state food service supervisor, Bill Urban, to provide them with more information at the March 2014 meeting.

Based on the amount currently subsidized by the federal School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program, the district would need to come up with approximately $200,000 more per school year to fund universal free lunches, Bundy told the board.

Bundy described a community eligibility program for free lunches, called Provision 2, that could support free lunches for some schools, but not districtwide because eligibility requires that at least 40 percent of the students be eligible for federal free or reduced lunches.

The need to subsidize such a broad program, possibly with an ad valorem tax increase, led board member Randy Wilbanks to ask Whittemore to provide more exact numbers.

Morton hopes to have county school tax numbers and other figures needed for the school board to consider Provision 2 at the next regular meeting at 5 p.m. June 16.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com