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Seamless Summer program approved after split vote by BOE members

The Seamless Summer program is in effect in McDuffie County even though the Board of Education split their vote. The program was approved 3-2 at the BOE's May regular meeting.

Seamless Summer combines the National School Lunch and the School Breakfast programs funded by the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. The district can serve meals free of charge to school-age children throughout the summer, and be reimbursed at the NSLP and SBP rates.

However, the FDA only pays for meals that are actually served, and the amount paid back does not cover all the expenses, according to School and Community Nutrition Director Amy Culberson. Mrs. Culberson told the board members that many systems across the state are opting out of the Seamless Summer program because it was costing them money. And because members of the board had met on several occasions for many hours to figure a budget that would be balanced, they had trouble digesting a program that would go in the red.

"In light of the budget situation, I can't see continuing Seamless Summer to the point of being in the red $27,000," Board Member Bob Smith said after hearing the estimated $27,342 deficit amount for the 2009 program.

This year, there are two factors making the deficit amount larger than in years past, according to Mrs. Culberson - the way the costs were figured and the termination of summer school.

In the past, only food and labor have been figured as "expenses" for the program. But as total reduced revenues from the state have mandated cuts in every department, all funds are being broken down into more details. So this year, energy, water, gas, sewer, pest control and workers comp costs also were figured into the "expenses" portion of the program's budget.

Because there are no students in summer school, there is no guarantee that a certain number of meals will be served every day, thus reducing the amount to be reimbursed. Board Member Dexter Lovins questioned how many students will come to the Seamless Summer sites and eat if the meals are offered.

"I can't predict the future to know who we'll feed," Mrs. Culberson replied.

Mr. Lovins and Mr. Smith voted against continuing the Seamless Summer program, and Mrs. Hobbs, Greg Derry and Dorothy Hart voted in favor of keeping it. Rev. Ella Mae Samuels and Rick McCorkle were not present.

"I hate seeing our children not having any food," Board Chairwoman Georgia Hobbs said during the discussion.

Assistant Superintendent Barry O'Neill said he is relieved the program will continue, because the system has several small programs running through the summer, and those children will need to be fed.

A pre-K language academy for 20 children identified throughout the county who could benefit from 14 additional days of instruction to transition to kindergarten will be at Maxwell Elementary School. Also at MES and Thomson Middle School is another program for 45 special education students working on their individual education plan through June and July. All of these students will be able to receive breakfast and lunch through the Seamless Summer program.

Any other child under the age of 18 in the county can participate in the free meal program, even if they are not in a summer school program and no matter their income level. Seamless Summer began Tuesday, June 2 at the following locations:

- Thomson Middle and Maxwell Elementary, 8 a.m. breakfast and 11:30 a.m. lunch, Mondays-Thursdays, June 2-24 and July 6-23.

- Human Development Center, breakfast 8 a.m. and noon lunch, Mondays-Thursdays, June 2-24 and July 6-23.

- Y130 on Main Street, breakfast 9 a.m. and noon lunch, Mondays-Thursdays, June 2-24 and July 6-23.

- Pitt Street Park, noon lunch only, Tuesdays, June 2, 9, 16 and 23.

- Bill Eubanks Park, noon lunch only, Wednesdays, June 3, 10, 17 and 24.

- Vonteego Cummings Park, noon lunch only, Thursdays, June 4, 11, 18 and 25.

Web posted on Thursday, June 04, 2009

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