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Gainesville schools to consider free lunch program
The system has participated in free breakfast program since 2003
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Gainesville City Schools Board of Education work session

When: 6 tonight
Where: Gainesville City Schools Board Office, 508 Oak St., Gainesville
Contact: 770-536-5275

There might be such a thing as free lunch — for all students — at Gainesville City Schools this year.

Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said food service director Tiffany Lommel will present information about Provision 2 Meals at tonight's school board meeting.

Systems can only apply for the program if a certain number of students are on the Free and Reduced Lunch program. Lommel said Gainesville "is an ideal system" because nearly 80 percent of its students receive free or reduced lunch.

"In an average system, your free kids are free, your reduced kids pay about 40 cents and your paid kids pay between $1.25 and $1.75," Lommel said. "In our system, the reduced students don't pay for meals either."

In order to qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch, parents must show their income level matches a federally designated standard. Families must apply each year for the program, which makes for a lot of paperwork.

"I spend a lot more money collecting the paid students' money and processing Free and Reduced Lunch than I get (from the paid students)," Lommel said.

The roughly $125,000 she receives from the 20 percent of Gainesville students who pay for lunch only accounts for 3 percent of the nutrition program's $3 million budget. The paperwork processing, cashier time, letters to parents and time balancing money costs a lot more than the program brings in each year, Lommel said.

"So with (Provision 2 Meals) you take the application (for Free and Reduced Lunch) in year one and you don't have to do it for three years," she said. "The cost savings might not be as much in year one but it's going to save in years two, three and four."

Lommel said Provision 2 Meals could save the system upward of $50,000 annually in paperwork processing costs.

"That would allow us to provide better food and different services to students," she said.

Gainesville City Schools have participated in a free breakfast program for all students since 2003. The free lunch program would begin this month. Other Georgia districts already participating include Greene, Burke and Emanuel counties, according to the school board's agenda.

The program will be discussed at today's school board meeting at 6 p.m. at the board office at 508 Oak St., Gainesville.


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