By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
For the second consecutive school year, all students enrolled in Rutherford County Schools will be served breakfast and lunch at no cost to their families.
The continuation of the seamless summer option was announced by Eric Smith, school nutrition coordinator for Rutherford County, who added, “Although SSO has been extended, we will no longer serve meals to children not in schools.”
The United States Department of Agriculture canceled the ability for school districts to offer weekend meals for the 2021–2022 school year. Only students attending the RC Virtual School and those who are quarantined will be able to pick up meals at schools.
“Because we’re not doing distance learning,” Smith said, “all the students should be in schools except on two occasions. One, if they’re enrolled in Virtual School. Those parents need to contact Dr. (Jessica) Supakhan, (principal of the Virtual School), and let her know that they will be picking up meals and she’ll let us know at what location. (Otherwise) we’re not going to have distance meals ready. They’re going to have to let us know ahead of time.”
Smith stressed the importance of families submitting applications for the free and reduced food program.
Last year, an estimated 20 percent of the families who would have otherwise qualified for the free reduced program did not follow through with filling out the application and relied solely on their children receiving free food at school.
However, when the government enacted the Pandemic Emergency Benefits Transactions those families did not qualify for what amounted to an additional $250 a month in groceries per child.
“They give you a little card,” Smith explained, “it’s like a credit card for food.”
He continued, “But then when PEBT came out…a lot of parents didn’t qualify because they didn’t submit the paperwork, so even though they might’ve been in a low-income household … they don’t get the money.”
It is “incredibly important for Title I” schools and also equally important “for the benefits the parents will receive.” In addition to the P-EBT, other benefits include field trip, graduation, ACT/SAT and athletic fees waived along with discounted Internet service.