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School districts that provide free lunch are concerned with funds during government shutdown

Posted: 5:06 PM, Jan 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-24 14:25:03Z
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — As the government shutdown reaches its 33rd day, all government departments are starting to feel the funding stress.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service is one of the departments that is partially shutdown.

The program that provides free breakfast and lunch for all students in a school district, The Community Eligibility Program (CEP), is one of the programs that is funded by the federal government. School districts across the country can apply to be a CEP school based on the poverty levels in their district.

Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Lackawanna, and Batavia are all school districts that participate in the CEP program.

The USDA sent this statement to all CEP school districts:

"To address the concerns and ensure that programs can continue to operate without threat of disruption FNS (Food and Nutrition Service) has provided State Agencies with additional available appropriated funding...well into March."

Food Service Director for the Buffalo Public Schools Bridget O'Brien Wood says that if needed, the district has a food service fund that can be used to make sure every student has a breakfast and lunch if they need it.

Buffalo Public Schools provide about 24,000 breakfast meals to students and 29,000 meals everyday to students no matter the socioeconomic class, 75 percent of students K-12 already qualify for free breakfast and lunch. Since the program started 2013, Woods says it has helped students feel good about eating school lunches.

Superintendent of Niagara Falls Mark Laurrie says he is slightly more concerned about tapping into the funding, but says that the program will continue whether the government funds it or not.

"The longer this shutdown stays on the books the more concern we will have in terms of tapping resources to continue our Community Eligibility Program," Laurrie said.

The Niagara Falls School District helps 76 percent of students with this program, providing around 5,000 meals every day to students. Niagara Falls has been using the program since 2014 and adds that the program is very non-discriminatory.

When the government reopens, all funding will be back to normal.