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Federal shutdown prompts changes to Vance school district lunch program

January 17, 2019

Vance County Schools will start serving “minimum-level” lunches next week because of the partial government shutdown, district officials have announced.

Starting Monday, Vance schools will offer one main dish, bread, two vegetables and milk. The county’s public schools will not offer fresh produce except at elementary schools, where produce will be offered twice a week, according to the district’s plan.

Over 90 percent of Vance public school students are eligible for free or reduced lunches, according to the district.

Administrators for Wake, Durham and Chapel Hill-Carrboro public schools said the federal government shutdown has not resulted in changes to their school meals program.

Some parents of Vance students are unhappy about the plan.

“As a mom, it does upset me,” said Cynthia Davis, the mother of an eighth grade student. “Because a lot of the kids aren’t getting the proper nourishment. For a lot of kids, the only opportunities they do have to eat will be at the school.”

Students will not be able to get bottled water or bottled juice after the district’s current inventory is exhausted. Students will also not be able to buy ice cream.

In a statement to WRAL News, Terri Hedrick, a spokesperson for the district, said administrators modified the meal program as a “proactive” approach.

“As the federal shutdown continues, it affects our small, rural school system more quickly than school districts which have much larger fund balances,” Hedrick’s statement said. “Our school nutrition program is self-supporting and through a federal grant program we provide free breakfasts and lunches each school day to all of our students who eat school meals.”

The district uses federal funds to operate its nutrition program.

But the federal reimbursement funds for student meals are usually received by the district at least 30 days after the meals are served, according to Hedrick.

“We feel that taking these precautionary measures will ensure that we meet our responsibility to continue to provide our students with good, nutritional meals that follow food service requirements,” Hedrick said.

District administrators said they hope to resume normal menus once the government shutdown ends.

Gertrude Gamble, whose children used to attend Vance public schools, also criticized the move.

“A lot of kids don’t have food at their house,” she said. “We’re living in a time in which people don’t care about the poor kids. But I do.”

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