Lee Co. to offer free meals to elementary, middle school students

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LEE COUNTY, Fla.- The Lee County School District will now serve free breakfast and lunch to even more students this upcoming 2015-2016 school year.

Seventy-seven schools in the district will get free meals for every student, no matter what the family income is, thanks to the USDA’s Community Eligibility Program (CEP).

“USDA developed this program a few years ago to be able to allow more and more students to partake in a free meal,” Sonny Stelmacki, the Director of Food & Nutrition with the Lee County School District said.

“It makes me feel great because education is the foundation of our future,” Ernesto Funes, who has siblings that go to one of the qualified schools said.

The district says, in order for a school to qualify for the federally-funded program, 40 percent of students need to be eligible for the free or reduced meal service offered at every school. The school district has been working to become a part of the program for years.

The catch is that taxpayers are the ones who may feel the burden. CEP is paid using federal tax dollars.

“Taxes are going to everything now so it’s just one more thing and it’s for a good cause. I wouldn’t complain about it,” Funes said.

“You know like other people said, taxes are taxes, and my grandson’s going to be taken care of so I agree with it,” Jeff Howell said.

The schools that do not qualify for the program are Estero High School, North High School, Fort Myers High School, Ida Baker High School, Three Oaks Middle School, Three Oaks Elementary School, and the Sanibel School.

Families at those schools who want to apply for the free or reduced meal service can click on this link.

The school district is hoping that eventually no schools will have to worry about lunchtime.

“Unless a student has a well-balanced meal, they can’t learn,” Stelmacki said.
Collier and Charlotte County school districts say they will not be a part of the USDA’s program this upcoming school year.



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