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Monday, August 31 will be the last day that Bladen County Schools will provide free meals to children ages birth to 18 years old through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP); aka – the summer feeding meal delivery by bus program. This is made possible by the flexibilities granted under the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) — a federally-funded, state-administered program that provides reimbursements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for any free meal served to a child age 18 and under. Bladen County Schools has been operating under the program since March 16, 2020.

Valerie Newton with Bladen County Schools said, “The summer feeding program (which began March 16, 2020) in the district received $1,755,508.45 from the USDA per the standard reimbursement rate. These funds come directly from the USDA federal program, not state or local funds. The reimbursement covers the costs/expenses (of approximately $20k per day) associated with the operations of the child nutrition program such as indirect costs, salaries and benefits, supplies, equipment, and food.”

On August 31, a federal waiver from the USDA that allows the Summer Food Service Program to operate is set to expire. The district will transition on Tuesday, September 1 to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP), which have more restrictions than the SFSP.

Under these USDA programs, Bladen County Schools would no longer be able to serve non-enrolled BCS students a breakfast and lunch meal as it did for the summer feeding. Instead, BCS will have to confirm which children are enrolled in the district. Students receiving meals after August 31 will now be required to provide their name and student identification number (PowerSchool number) to the cafeteria worker to be eligible for the meals. Those who are not enrolled in the district — including recent graduates, young children who are not yet in kindergarten, charter school, private school, homeschool, and children from other communities — would not be eligible for the meals. Bladen County Schools is a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) district, which means all enrolled and eligible students would still receive free meals.

The state is awaiting further guidance from the USDA and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Child Nutrition division as to how a child can receive their meals; either by curbside pick-up or by bus delivery. As of August 24, the district has not received firm guidance.

Since school buildings were closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bladen County Schools reported they distributed more than 647,975 meals in Bladen County.

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