Harlan County Schools to again offer free breakfast and lunch for all students

Published 10:15 am Thursday, July 14, 2022

The Harlan County School District will again be participating in the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program in the upcoming school year, allowing all students to eat breakfast and lunch at the school free of charge.

According to a news release, implementing the Community Eligibility Provision will allow all schools in the Harlan County School District to offer meals at no charge to the student during the 2022-2023 school year. The students may participate in the program without paying a fee or submitting a household application.

The program includes students of Harlan County High School, Black Mountain Elementary, Cawood Elementary, Cumberland Elementary, Evarts Elementary, Green Hills Elementary, James A. Cawood Elementary, Rosspoint Elementary, Wallins Elementary as well as the Appalachian Challenge Academy.

Jack Miniard, Director of School Nutrition for the Harlan County Board of Education, explained some of the details of the program.

“It’s been about eight years,” Miniard said. “We’ve already been renewed for it, so we’ll have it for the next four years.”

According to Miniard, all students can eat breakfast and lunch. Those involved in after-school programs, such as an academic or sports team, will be provided an after-school snack and dinner if they so desire.

“If they would like to take advantage of it, we can provide that at each school,” Miniard said.

Miniard talked about some of the benefits the meal programs provide students, especially those who have to leave for school early in the morning.

“Harlan County is very unique because even though we’re not the highest in population, geographically kids have to get up before daylight to travel,” Miniard said. “If they’re leaving from Big Laurel or Holmes Mill, or down at the end of Wallins, they would have to go a long time without food. So this has really helped.”

Miniard explained starting the day with a meal is known to help students pay attention.

“It’s hard to learn when your stomach is growling,” Miniard said.

Many students take advantage of the school’s lunches, which provide the school with more funds for buying food.

“We can buy better quality food,” Miniard said. “We buy the best chicken patties there are. We still have eggs, gravy and biscuits, which makes a big difference.”

The Harlan County School District serves several thousand meals to students per day.

“There are approximately 6,800 meals offered each day,” Miniard said.

Each meal is designed to meet nutritional guidelines set by the state and federal governments.

“We have people who are very dedicated,” Miniard said. “It takes about a week to do the menus. We’re doing them now for this coming school year … We have to list every ingredient and make sure it balances out.”

Miniard said the schools do their cooking from scratch.

“We don’t have a lot of preservatives added into the food,” Miniard said. “We’re able to fix good, wholesome meals.”

The menus at the individual schools are designed for the nutritional requirements of the specific ages of the students who will be eating the meal, Miniard explained.

Minaird added that the cooks take a lot of pride in their meals.

“Being able to offer breakfast, lunch, and also supper for the kids who are participating in school activities after school, it’s really made a difference academically,” Miniard said. “It’s made a big difference in the wellness of the students, too.”