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Some Lee County students expected to miss free meals based on schooling option

If your child is enrolled in Lee Virtual School or home school, they will not get grab-and-go meals next school year.

These meals help feed children while they are at home learning, and one school board member says there has to be a way to make sure they are fed.

The School District of Lee County says Lee Virtual and students in homeschooling were not able to get free meals from the District last year either. But, with the increase in students doing Lee Virtual School and homeschooling this year, they tried to get that changed.

But state and federal regulations won’t allow it. It’s a program that’s served thousands of parents and children in Lee County while students were learning from home. But now only some students will be able to take advantage of the District’s free meals.

“I don’t think that’s right. I think it’s unfair,” mother Racheal Ballard said.

Ballard chose Lee Home Connect for her daughter. Parents who did the same can still get meals for their children at grab-and-go sites.

“I don’t use it but I know many people who do,” Ballard said. “With the kids not having that option, they may go without meals.”

LVS parents received a survey saying they could not participate in the grab-and-go meals this year. Kids who are in home school can not get the District’s free meals either.

We spoke to Karina Lopez, who elected to have her child do LVS. She spoke to us in Spanish, and we translated her thoughts.

“For many families, it’s going to impact them with the lunch because many kids don’t have lunch,” Lopez said.

Chris Patricca with Lee County School Board says the need in the county has always been high. But this comes at a time where the need is even higher and more students than ever are doing LVS or homeschooling.

“We’re looking at 15,000 students who have chosen Lee Virtual or homeschooling, and those students as of right now are excluded from the grab-and-go lunch program,” Patricca said.

But Patricca says the fight to feed all students is not over.

“School districts across the nation are facing the same issue, so I think we can get together and advocate together for what’s best for our kids,” Patricca said.

Pattricca told us families who need extra resources to help feed their children should check the school district of lee county food and nutrition services Facebook page for updates on opportunities for free food.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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