Moundville Elementary fights food insecurity one meal at a time

As the pandemic came to an end so did many of the free and reduced meal programs provided through Covid relief funds. Schools in Hale County had to think outside-the-box to make sure students were fed.

Moundville Elementary School sits in the middle of a “food desert” which means people who live in that area have limited access to affordable, nutritious meals. This makes it hard for parents, like Jennifer Wyatt, to get fresh food from a grocery store on a daily or weekly basis.

“We don’t drive it every day because gas is high and so it may be a once-a-week thing that we go to the grocery store. Sometimes it may be every other week because we do cook meals daily. But I stock up and we have freezers and stuff. It can be cumbersome to drive to town, ” said Wyatt.

Child nutritionist director Kelly Whatley and her staff of five see first hand how a meal can make all the difference for many families at Moundville Elementary.

“The closest grocery store to some people that go to Moundville Elementary is about 30 minutes or 35 minutes away for some. The school is where the kids can really get their nutrition,” said Kelly Whatley the school’s nutritionist.

The school recently found out they qualify for a community eligibility provision or CEP. It’s a free meal option for schools and school districts in low-income areas. This is the first year that Hale County schools are participating in the program.

“Our participation level has jumped drastically. It has gone up drastically. We have about 97-percent participation here at Moundville Elementary because students can now eat for free,” said Whatley.

The free meal is one less thing that parents have to worry about when sending their children to school.

“If students are fed and full they can learn and they do not have to worry about where their meal is coming from or their tummies growling or anything like that. They are ready to learn. It is good nourishment for them and it helps them grow.”

Moundville Elem School

According to the Alabama Department of Education more than 550 schools across Alabama participate in the community eligibility provision program.

The state is hoping more schools just like the ones in Hale County become eligible for this program.

“Students don’t need to worry about paying for their meals. We feel at the state if the schools have an option, we just think it is a great opportunity. It is good for families. It helps everybody across the board, said Julie Autrey, the child nutrition program director and education specialist for the state of Alabama.

And Moundville Elementary school isn’t stopping there.  Staff there are working on a plan to feed student seven days a week.

Categories: Featured, Local News