PAINTED POST | The Corning-Painted Post School District in the fall will eliminate the charge for reduced-price student meals.

The school board voted to approve the change at its reorganizational meeting for the year.

Joe Kilmer, food service director for the district, said the change is all about eliminating barriers to education.

“Here at C-PP our mission is ‘students are the center of all we do’,” Kilmer told The Leader. “Anything we can do to remove barriers to achievement and give our kids the best chance of success is why we all get up every morning.”

He said getting proper nutrition is as important to a student’s education as basic supplies such as pencils.

“Studies have shown that students who eat breakfast at school have improved performance, punctuality, attendance and behavior,” Kilmer said. “If a student needs a pencil to learn, give them a pencil. If they need food to concentrate, give them a meal.”

The federal government, specifically the USDA, sets income levels for students to qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

For 2018-19, according to Kilmer, a family of four making under $32,630 would qualify for free meals. A family of four making $46,435 or less would qualify for reduced-price meals.

The state sets the maximum cost for reduced-price meals at $0.25, but it doesn't set a minimum.

“Programs have discretion to set the price lower if they choose,” Kilmer said.

That allows the district to change the cost to $0.

Kilmer noted the change has no effect on taxpayers.

“The funding comes from students selecting meals and the cafeteria receiving a per-meal reimbursement,” he said. “It’s not funded by the local tax levy.”

He also noted that the system for managing free and reduced meals won’t be changing in any way.

“There is no change to the process,” Kilmer said. “We will send home applications at the beginning of the year as part of the back-to-school process like we do every year. The process is entirely confidential and students are not discriminated against or identified in the serving line.”

The full price for student meals remains unchanged as it has for years.

Kilmer said while the change may seem small, it’s about making things just a little easier for families where ‘just a little’ may really make a difference for the better or the worse.

“This reduces the burden on families who may be struggling to come up with that $0.25 and improves the opportunity for a student to get a meal without the issues of lacking the quarter for the day,” Kilmer said.