It’s hard to believe but we are officially into the 2015-16 school year. As I drove around the last couple days and stopped into our schools, it was easy to see the excitement on the faces of our Thunder, as well as our staff. There is nothing quite like the beginning of a new school year.
By now many of you have probably heard of our new free breakfast and lunch program either on our website, Facebook, the O-D or on TV. Central Valley is able to do this all because of a grant through the USDA. Our schools qualify as we have more than 40% of our student population receiving government services such as food stamps or Medicaid. Our actual number is over 45%. While I wish our communities and children did not need such assistance, I am beyond grateful that our Thunder and their families will benefit from the Community Eligibility Provision. As a student, I was a free/reduced lunch child, as was my little brother. With this program, all children now have access to a healthy breakfast and lunch with no worries about being singled out or skipping a meal.
There are a number of people to thank for putting the work in so we could apply for and receive the grant including Barb Cristman from Food Services, Cuyle Rockwell, and Lisa Van Winkler. They did the heavy lifting to make the grant a reality. As with any new program, it will take some time to fully put it into place and work out the kinks, but all students have their meals free immediately. We are working to establish breakfast in the classroom for all elementary students so our youngest Thunder have easy access to start their day off right. Barb and her staff are looking into how to create grab-n-go meals for students on the run. If we have a high participation rate among our students, we hope to expand meal options in the future.
Every decision we make has to align with what is best for our Thunder, while understanding the fiscal realities of our area. This grant was a no-brainer as it reaches every child and allows them to concentrate on learning, not their next meal, and without impacting our local taxpayers. In the end, our focus must be on providing every child with a relevant progressive educational and social foundation. If we can do that, every child will graduate prepared for future success in career and/or college. The school year has just started, but it’s looking like it will be a great one for all of us who call the valley home.