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Meals free for nearly 95,000 Roanoke City school children

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Nearly 50,000 children go hungry in Southwest Virginia every year. Within Roanoke city limits, 5,000 kids are affected by hunger. Roanoke City Public Schools said it is looking to end the battle, staring in the lunchroom.

A federally funded grant known as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows schools with high poverty rates to serve free breakfast and lunch to all students. A total of 19 schools are participating in the new program within the division. A list is at the bottom of this story.

"There are families around us that we would never dream are food insecure, but many families are one paycheck away from being in trouble," said John Shoulders Jr., Vice President of Business Affairs at Feeding America Southwest Virginia.

"It's a reality Feeding America deals with on a daily basis. In truth, the Roanoke City Public School Division said more than three-quarters of students received free and reduced lunches for years.

"It's more efficient to go ahead and give them all the program than to try and differentiate and do all the paperwork that ends up costing more than the meals you'd actually serve to the kids," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven Staples.

The grant money replaces the reduced lunch program. Now, nearly 95,000 students are eligible to be served a hot or cold dish.

"They could possibly get two meals a day for 180 days," said Staples. "That's 360 meals per child. School lunches average at about $2, where school breakfasts are about a $1.50. So, you're saving about $3.50 a day times 180 days. It's a pretty significant amount of money."

More importantly, it's a guarantee that kids are eating and getting the brainpower they need before class.

Seven Roanoke city schools did not qualify for the federal grant. Families of children who need assistance may still apply for reduced lunch as normal. Applications are due September 29.

Schools included in the grant where students will receive free meals in Roanoke include:

  • Fairview Elementary
  • Fallon Park Elementary
  • Garden City Elementary
  • Highland Park Elementary
  • Hurt Park Elementary
  • Forest Park Academy
  • Lincoln Terrace Elementary
  • Lucy Addison Middle School
  • James Breckinridge Middle School
  • Monterey Elementary
  • Morningside Elementary
  • Preston Park Elementary
  • Noel C. Taylor Learning Academy
  • Roanoke Academy of Math and Science (RAMS)
  • Round Hill Elementary
  • Stonewall Jackson Middle School
  • Virginia Heights Elementary
  • Westside Elementary
  • William Fleming High School

Schools which did not qualify for the CEP grant are:

  • Crystal Spring Elementary
  • Fishburn Park Elementary
  • Grandin Court Elementary
  • James Madison Middle
  • Patrick Henry High School
  • Wasena Elementary
  • Woodrow Wilson Middle School