By Ted Shockley
The Northampton School Board decided against providing federally funded free breakfast and lunch to all students because the program would have created a $25,000 shortfall in its cafeteria budget and could have required more workers to implement.
School officials also said increased lunchroom volume would have further complicated “inadequate” lunch-time lengths at the county’s high- and middle-school complex, where officials said some students only get four minutes to eat after waiting in sluggish lunch lines.
But Accomack County implemented the federal program this year for a student population four times as big. And some parents and the Northampton Board of Supervisors were mystified why its own school board came to a different conclusion.
“A lot of people are buzzing about this and talking about this,” said Supervisor John Coker during a meeting Tuesday night in Eastville.
Brook Thomas, the school board’s finance director, provided the reasoning, and said the schools wanted to study the issue more and could implement it next year.
She will explain it again to the public at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10 at the Northampton High School library.
Members of the Northampton County Board of Supervisors understood the reasons detailed by Thomas, but seemed to say the school board missed an opportunity.
Supervisor Spencer Murray felt the school board could have asked the county for the extra $25,000 — and Supervisor Oliver Bennett said the deficit would amount to about $15 per student, per year.
“I would hope that you would look at this very, very hard in the future,” said Murray, adding that providing free, nutritious food for students should be a priority.
Coker said the program “sounds like a win-win to me.”