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WES students to receive free meals

Students at Westside Elementary School will have the opportunity to eat well this school year and parents will be happy to know that they won’t have to pay for it.

The Demopolis City School System has joined the School Grants for Healthy Kids program that will provide free breakfasts and lunches to all students during the upcoming school year. The program aims to help schools implement healthy and wellness practices to eat better and be physically active. Since 2009, the program has provided $6.6 million to schools, according to the organization’s website.

Schools become eligible for the program based on the number of children eligible for free and reduced lunches. Schools that have over 40 percent of their students included in those programs are eligible. In 2016-17, 71 percent of WES students were in the free and reduced lunch program, according to Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff.

We hope this program proves to be a convenience to our parents. It’s one less thing for them to worry about in the mornings and it also ensures that all of our students get the chance to eat in the morning,” Kallhoff said.

The school system will continue to be reimbursed by USDA based on the number of total meals served, allowing the system to pay for food, lunchroom employees and utilities used to prepare the meals.

“The more meals we serve the greater the reimbursement,” Kallhoff said.

Feeding each child breakfast will come with some changes. Instead of eating those meals in the cafeteria, students will report to the classrooms where they will be served.

“There will be an acclimation to take place and structurally we will be changing what we do in the morning. We purchased rolling carts that will accommodate both hot and cold foods,” Kallhoff said.

The superintendent said students would be allowed to report to school as early as 7:35 a.m. and breakfast being served to classrooms between 7:45 and 8 a.m. Kallhoff adds that parents are still welcome to join their children for meals.

“I know a lot of parents enjoy having a meal with their children and we still welcome them. However, once instruction starts, it will be time to get to work,” he said.

The school system will be monitoring the program at WES during the school year and considering expanding it to additional schools in the future.

“We are going to see how this goes financially and from an operations standpoint with the possibility of expanding to U.S. Jones (Elementary) in the future,” Kallhoff said.