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Hartselle City Schools students receive free breakfast, lunch for remainder of fall semester

All students in Hartselle City Schools will receive free breakfasts and lunches through the end of the year, thanks to a waiver from the USDA.  

Jenny Newton, child nutrition director for HCS, said before the pandemic, roughly half of the total student body received meals provided by the schools. If those numbers remain steady, HCS will be providing 1,750 students with two free meals every school day.  

“This is the first time I know of that we have been allowed to offer the Seamless Summer Options (program) during the school year,” Newton said. SSO is the program through which the school system feeds students during the summer.  

“This has helped us out in a couple of ways this year because we usually do not qualify because our free and reduced lunch numbers are too low,” she added. 

Newton said the USDA approved the program for all schools that applied because the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. HCS began offering free meals to students Sept. 1.  

I think this is really going to help especially those middle-income families that make just enough so that they don’t qualify for free and reduced (meals) but still have struggles day to day,” Newton said. “With the pandemic, with people being laid off suddenly or missing time at work because a family member is put in quarantine – some of those unexpected situations where money is going to be tight – I think this will really help those families.  

If you look at an average elementary school student who eats breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria, that’s about $20/week that families spend per child. That adds up and is a lot of money at the end of the month that can now go toward other things for that family.”  

Newton said she encourages all families to fill out the free and reduced lunch form that be found on hartselletigers.org. Those who qualify might also be eligible for other types of aid, and the statistics benefit the school systems Title I funds from the federal government.