Moundville Elementary is located in the middle of a ‘food desert’. This means that people living in the area have limited access to affordable, nutritious meals. This makes it difficult for parents like Jennifer Wyatt to get fresh food from the grocery store on a daily or weekly basis.
“I don’t drive every day because gas is expensive, so maybe I go to the grocery store once a week. , freezers, etc. It can be a hassle to drive to town,” Wyatt said.
Child Nutrition Director Kelly Whatley and her staff of five have seen first-hand how diet impacts many families at Moundville Elementary School.
“The closest grocery store for people going to Moundville Elementary is about 30 or 35 minutes away for some people. School is where kids really get their nutrition,” said a nutritionist at the school. Kelly Whatley said.
The school recently learned that it is eligible for the Community Eligibility Code or CEP. 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 level of participation has skyrocketed. It’s skyrocketed. Here at Moundville Elementary, we’re about 97% participating now that we’ve got free meals for our students.” , says Whatley.
Free meals reduce one of the things parents have to worry about when sending their kids to school.
“If students are full and eating, they can learn and they don’t have to worry about where the food is coming from or if their tummy is growling or anything like that. They are ready to learn.” It is good nutrition for them and helps them grow.
According to the Alabama Department of Education, more than 550 schools across Alabama participate in community qualification programs.
The state wants schools like Hale County to be eligible for the program.
“Students don’t have to worry about food costs. If schools have a choice, I think it’s a great opportunity. It helps everyone across the board, says Julie Autry, an expert in
Moundville Elementary is so much more. Staff are working on a plan to provide meals to students seven days a week.