Free meals could end at West Point schools

WEST POINT, Miss. (WCBI) – The Community Eligibility Provision program lets all students in a school eat free meals.

A school can qualify if at least 25% of its students are automatically eligible for free meals because they receive SNAP, Medicaid, or other government help, or if they are homeless, migrant, runaway, foster children, or in Head Start.

Jermaine Taylor, Superintendent of the West Point Consolidated School District, says the economic boom in Clay County serves as a benefit to the economy but not necessarily to the students in his district.

“With the developments here in the county, the industries that have come, more people are working so the percentage of families that are receiving those benefits have gone down. So we’re in danger of not qualifying for that grant. It’s a good thing for the community, which means that more people are working so they’re not needing those benefits, but for the students, and families that have relied on that free lunch for 8-plus years, if that goes away, it’s gonna hurt them,” said Taylor.

The West Point School District is not alone. According to the Mississippi Department of Education, more than 300 schools actively participate in this program. Now it’s unclear at the moment just how many schools are at risk of losing their eligibility.

“We do understand that for some kids, the meal that they receive at school is probably the most nutritious meal they’ll receive all day. We wouldn’t turn anyone away. We would find a way to feed them, but it just makes things a little more difficult for us,” said Taylor.

Taylor said the school district would return to a tab system, where no student would go hungry, but every student wouldn’t eat free either.

The parent would be responsible for paying their child’s debt at the end of the school year.

But what if the parent can’t afford it? The administration doesn’t have an answer to that.

“The news of this potentially leaving is all fairly new, so there is a lot of this that we’ll have to go to the drawing board and figure out how we would handle certain situations, but we would have to find a way to work with our families,” said Taylor.

Taylor says the biggest challenge the district currently faces is getting parents to fill out the necessary form to see if they qualify for the free lunch.

“Once we got the news about us possibly falling below that threshold to qualify, we sent information out to the parents: if you think you may be eligible for some of these benefits apply. That would help our percentage cause we may have some people who qualify for benefits who may have not applied. Whether you use it or not just to see if you qualify,” said Taylor.

Taylor said he should know by early Summer whether the district’s students will be eligible for free meals next school year.

For 24/7 news and updates, follow us on Facebook and X

Categories: Featured, Local News