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Free Meals will be Available During The 2023-2024 Year for All Students Attending Avery County Public Schools

Graphic submitted.

By Tim Gardner

The Avery County Public School System will offer free lunches for the 2023-2024 school year, which begins for students on Monday, August 14. The free meals are part of the Community Eligibility Provision, which is a meal service option that allows eligible schools to provide breakfast and lunch at no cost to all students in a particular school or an entire school system. 

Avery County Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman said there will be “free lunches and breakfasts for all students at each of the county’s public schools.”

The purpose of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is to improve access to nutritious meals for students in high poverty areas, address daily food insecurity, student meal debt, and the stigma of why some students eat free, while others must pay for their meals at school.  

School system eligibility and reimbursement is based on Identified Student Percentage (ISP).  The means that the number of “identified students” consists of those directly certified for free meals based on their participation in other government funded food programs.  Schools are not reimbursed at the free rate for all meals served unless the school system has at least 62.5 percent of identified students.  Avery County Schools, as a whole, currently falls under the ISP threshold.

School districts that elect to participate in the CEP program have various factors to consider, including its impact on many federally funded programs and on non-Federal funding sources such as grants and revenues from State of North Carolina and local sources.

Brigman commented to High Country Press about the free meals: “We in the school system are very thankful for the opportunity to provide all students in Avery County access to breakfast and lunch each day at no cost to students and families.  As a result of the leadership of our Nutrition Director, Mrs. Tammy Woodie, this benefit has been made possible for the 2023-2024 school year.  We are also thankful for our Avery County Board of Education members (Pat Edwards, Randy Singleton, Kathey Aldridge and John Greene), who gave final approval and supported the process for meals to be provided to our students each day free of charge.”    

Woodie noted that no free and reduced application forms are required for students to participate to obtain the free breakfasts and lunches.

For further information about the free meals program, call the Avery County Schools Central Office: (828) 733-6006.