Schools Left to Come Up with Lunch Money During Shutdown

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As Congress continues to seek a budget resolution, school lunch and food programs at local schools could be cut.

Funding for the free and reduced meal programs at public schools is now in question.

A slice of pizza and a scoop of fruit were among items dished out at Cavanaugh Elementary Wednesday (Oct. 2). But soon that meal could start costing the district money out of its own pocket until a budget agreement can be met and the shutdown is lifted in Washington, D.C.

“It's very frustrating to us because if we did business like they're doing business, we'd be out of business,” said Benny Gooden, superintendent of Fort Smith Public Schools. “The members of Congress need to grow up and solve the problem because we can't continue to do our business and serve the children who have needs.”

In a matter of days, federal funding for public schools' free and reduced meal program could be cut off due to the budget shutdown. The schools are left to front the money or come up with another plan to get the kids fed.

“Here in Fort Smith that’s a big deal,” Gooden said. “We have over 70 percent of our students that qualify for free or reduced price meals, and those funds, and much as they are passed through the state are secure for a few days. And how many is a few days? None of us really knows.”

Gooden said that somehow they will figure out a way to make sure the kids are fed even if the district has to look at cutting the budget in other places. But teachers say it’s a lot for both the schools and the parents to deal with.

“We have to understand that these parents are working and doing the best that they can already and so to even think that we would have to put this on their plate to think about, I think it's heartbreaking to think that this is the situation we're facing,” said teacher and parent LaToya Sheperd.

In Northwest Arkansas, Fayetteville Public Schools were notified by the state Wednesday that meals served before October 1 will be reimbursed those after that date are expected to be reimbursed.


  • jeani

    I agree 100 %. If inmates convicted of a crime can have their meals brought to them ….then so should our kids….we pay taxes to feed the inmates….Another question is why are we still paying taxes if th shutdown isnt even going to allow our lower income kids to eat in school ?

  • Sanders

    How can over 70% of Fort Smith be on Free and Reduced lunches? I have to pay full price for my kids lunches, and we live paycheck to paycheck. Why can’t we get help like the rest of these 70%? I work everyday and bust my butt and so does my husband. Maybe if I quit my job, lived on food stamps….just maybe then we could get free and reduced lunches.

    • arkiebrian

      Agreed…has our country gone that far down the toilet where 70% of local kids get free/reduced lunch? I find this to be startling and terrifying at the same time.

  • Kevin

    How about pulling together and showing the government we don’t need them and come up with the money through fund raisers and donations.

  • Janie

    Would you truly want your children eating what prisoners are fed? You fuss because your tax dollars are feeding those incarcerated, yet any of us that get off our rears and go to work everyday, own a home and autos are paying for your child to eat free or reduced meals. Here is a thought if you can’t afford to feed them then stop having them! Don’t get me wrong I would never want to see a child go hungry, but it doesn’t cost a fortune to pack your child a lunch everyday. Can’t afford it with one job then get two.

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