Bristol, Virginia Public Schools: feeding children on school cancellation days

By Samantha Zarek, WCYB News

Virginia Schools are closed because of the extreme cold we've been experiencing in our area, but the doors of Virginia Middle School are open and in the cafeteria, meals are being served. While schools were closed, students from across the district were invited to Virginia Middle School for a free meal, reduced price meal for parents, and a take-home food pack for the weekend, even offering free transportation.

"We know we have schools in this district that students eat three meals with us when they're in school, so we worry that when we're closed, are they getting any meals at all?" says director of School Nutrition Programs for Bristol Virginia Public Schools Kathy Hicks.

Hicks says opening the cafeteria for two hours on a canceled school day is something new the district is trying under the Community Eligibility Provision Program, or CEP.

"We have five schools, four elementaries and this middle school that the students do not have to pay for their meals," Hicks says.

Hicks says in it's first year, the CEP meals program saved parents $111,000. Superintendent Keith Perrigan says in recent years, schools have taken on more roles than just providing education.

"It's not just about reading, writing, and arithmetic anymore, there's so many other needs that we have to meet and we're glad to meet it for our families," Perrigan says.

Noel Ferguson has three daughters who attend school within the district.

"It means to me that my children will eat and it doesn't cost so we don't have to worry about having the extra money to eat and my girls appreciate it," Ferguson says.

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