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Sam Adams Elementary School provides free meals for students

CASSOPOLIS, Mich. --- Students at Sam Adams Elementary in Cassopolis can now eat for free. 

The school is a part of a grant program, called the Community Eligbility Progam, that provides the school with breakfast and lunch. Sam Adams is the first school in the Cassopolis Public Schools district to offer the program. 

"It's wonderful for all of our families because no one has to worry about their kids being fed," said DeAnn Voss, Sam Adams Elementary School principal. 

According to Principal Voss, the school applied for the grant when a report showed that over 75 percent of her students qualified for free or reduced meals. 

"Back in 2008, when the job crisis hit we had many parents working in Elkhart," Deb Stermer, assistant principal at Sam Adams Elementary School said. "Elkhart was one of the highest unemployment areas."

During the depths of the recession, the unemployment rate in neighboring Elkhart County hit 20 percent. Things turned around, but mabe a bit more slowly in Cass County.

Today, Cass County's median household income is $46,570, according to the US Census Bureau. However, that amount is still $13,000 less than the nation's median household income of $59,039. 

Sam Adams began CEP at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. The school and district had previously paid for students' food if they could not afford it. 

"We set aside monies, did different activities to help support our program to make sure our funds aren't left in a deficit," Voss said. 

Now with the federal grant, they will no longer have to do this. 

Last year, the federal program, including CEP, served 55,297,005 free and reduced breakfasts. It served 92,573,489 free and reduced lunches. In total, the federal government spent $413,232,597.

Stermer said they are already seeing a positive response from students just one month with the grant. She said there are 209 students using the free meal program, an almost 50 student increase from last month. 

"Our main goal is to make sure, that regardless of the history, that we continue to support our students and our community to the best of our ability," Voss said.

Voss said she wants to invite other school leaders to come and see how the grant program benefits students and urges them to apply for it at their schools.


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