ASHE COUNTY — For children as old as 18, Ashe County Schools offers a program to ensure that each child is guaranteed breakfast and lunch during the summer.
The summer feeding program, sponsored by the national school breakfast and lunch programs through the United States Department of Agriculture, provides free meals for children throughout Ashe County. Martha Turner, director of child nutrition at Ashe County Schools, said that any child in the county qualifies for the program.
“As far as our summer feeding program, there are no qualifiers because we are considered area eligible,” Turner said.
According to data collected by Turner, 58.7 percent of children in the county meet the requirements for free and reduced lunch. Since that percentage is higher than 50 percent, which is the national requirement for eligibility, all children are eligible for free breakfast and lunch in the county, Turner said.
Currently, all three elementary schools in the county are serving meals. Mountain View Elementary and Blue Ridge Elementary serve breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Monday through Thursday until June 27. Westwood Elementary serves breakfast from 7:15 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. and lunch from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays until Aug. 2.
“It’s beneficial to our students and their families because many of our families that are food insecure or have difficulty making ends meet throughout the year, they’ve actually relied on those schools’ lunch and breakfast to take their child through the school year,” Turner said.
“Throughout the summer, it’s difficult to come up with those extra dollars,” Turner added. “It’s a good benefit for families, and we encourage them to come out and have breakfast and lunch.”
Turner added that the program is looking to expand into more areas in the county, but doesn’t have anything solidified yet.
Each meal provided to students through the summer feeding program meets the same federal requirements for reimbursable meals as those for the free and reduced lunch program. Lunch meals consist of five components: 2 ounces of bread and meat, 8 ounces of milk, three-fourths of a cup of vegetables and half of a cup of fruit.
For every meal served for lunch, children are required to take at least a half of a cup of fruit or vegetables, as well as two other full components of the meal. Children are offered five, but can take three components. For breakfast, children are offered four components and are required to take at least three with one being a half of a cup of fruit.
Turner said she has directed the summer feeding program for the past seven years, but added that it has existed for about 20 years.
For more information about child nutrition at Ashe County Schools, visit https://www.asheschools.org/Page/140.