As more schools offer free meals, others hold thousands in outstanding debt

News13 Digital First

(WBTW) – There’s no doubt about it, back-to-school season can get expensive.

But for parents at Timrod Elementary School in Florence, one thing can get knocked off the list.

That’s because starting this year, the school is offering free breakfast and lunch to all students enrolled.

“It’s been really helpful, especially because of the fact that you have to pay for school supplies and school field trips and everything like that,” Adrian Devane said. She’s a parent but also teaches at the school. “It’s able to keep a few more pennies in my pocket this year.

Timrod is able to offer the free meals through a federal program called the Community Eligibility Provision- or CEP.

It’s available to schools where at least 40 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch.

In South Carolina, that equates to 58 of the state’s 93 districts.

Marion County Schools is one of those districts.

“I just think it benefitted our district tremendously. Going the CEP way,” Marion County Schools Food Service Supervisor Brenda Cross said.

The district has been a part of the program since 2014.

The program ensures the school gets paid for the food they serve, which can help staff improve service.

“If an oven goes down, we can get a new one,” Food Nutrition Specialist Jason Jordan said. “We have money in the bank basically to do that.”

But not every school qualifies.

In Horry County, for instance, only 17 of the district’s 52 schools qualify. That’s why students have wracked up thousands of dollars in outstanding lunch debt.

At the end of the 2018-2019 school year, students owed a total of $57,808.24. That’s up from the previous year’s $43,442.33.

“We do have debt. Not everyone pays their bills,” Horry County Schools Spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said. “We know this is part of the process.”

She says the debt can follow students throughout their public school career.

It doesn’t just accumulate in one year,” Bourcier said. “It does follow the student until their graduation process. They need to pay all their fees before they do the graduation ceremonial walk.”

Schools in Horry County are lenient with students, though and allow them to have a meal even if they don’t have the money.

“We do offer courtesy lunches for our students so no one goes without a lunch,” she said. So we do make sure that we offer those lunches to our students.”

If parents at Horry County Schools do need assistance, they need to fill out an application for free and reduced lunch by October 1.

SchoolOutstanding debt
Aynor High1,213.97
North Myrtle Beach High1,007.59
Conway High3,112.70
Green Sea Floyds High193.12
Loris High1,572.54
Myrtle Beach High1,993.49
Socastee High732.93
Whittemore Park750.92
Aynor Elementary2,836.57
Myrtle Beach Middle1,975.30
Coway Middle2,876.14
Daisy Elementary15.41
Green Sea Floyds Elementary198.49
Homewood Elementary$715.46
Loris Middle3
Kingston Elementary306.77
Lakewood Elementary4,228.35
St. James Elementary297.54
Loris Elementary594.52
Midland Elementary199.78
Conway Elementary1,951.34
North Myrtle Beach Middle2,937.18
Pee Dee Elementary152.13
Waccamaw Elementary0
South Conway Elementary279.88
Forestbrook Elementary1,890.49
St. James Middle 413.74
Carolina Forest Elementary1,347.77
Seaside Elementary1,169.26
Forestbook Middle766.77
Carolina Forest High9,029.47
Socastee Elementary521.67
Palmetto Bays Elementary34.62
Aynor Middle1,830.33
St. James High1,495.19
Ocean Bay Elementary517.03
Ocean Bay Middle548.14
Black Water Middle1,372.59
Burgess Elementary180.59
Early College High400.35
River Oaks Elementary991.42
Ocean Drive Elementary224.41
Waterway Elementary3,416.93
Riverside Elementary0
Socastee Middle298.28
Ten Oaks Middle957.93
St. James Intermediate0
Myrtle Beach Early Childhood42.9
Myrtle Beach Primary62.04
Myrtle Beach Elementary151.2
Horry County Education Center0
Academy for Arts, Science and Technology0
Academy for Technology and Academics0

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