Nov. 27, 2002 – The Education Department is in the midst of determining what schools have students that need financial assistance when it comes to school lunches.
The study will determine how much money the department gets from the federal government to pay for school lunches for the next three years. It also will impact other federally funded programs.
Currently, all students in V.I. public and private schools get free lunches, thanks to long-ago action by the Legislature. "This entitlement is of particular significance because it places a greater burden on the Virgin Islands cost/funding situation," said Solomon Sentongo-Kabuka, who heads SKNetwork Inc., the company hired to conduct the survey.
Kabuka said the federal government pays only for lunches for children who meet income guidelines, and the local government thus picks up the tab for all of the others.
The study began last week. Kabuka is developing a list of households to be sampled. Who gets picked is determined by how closely they match what Kabuka deems to be the typical household with students involved in the school lunch program. Households that receive assistance from Human Services Department programs will be eliminated from the sample list and the remaining families will be surveyed.
A one-page questionnaire will be used to obtain data that will be utilized to determine a household's ability to pay for school lunches. Kabuka said no families or students will be identified by name in the information that is collected.
Elodia Weekly, state director for the Education Department's special nutrition programs, said that if families are unwilling to provide the information requested in the questionnaire, the territory could lose federal money for school lunches. "It stands to reason that the more individuals who participate in this study, the greater the possibility that the territory will be able to maximize its funding from the federal government," she said.
The survey, which is to be completed by March, is required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of its efforts to make sure that all school children get a nutritious lunch.
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