By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Feds determine five schools not eligible for Newton system's meal plan
17 schools to offer free meals without student qualification; those in remaining schools to qualify individually

COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton County School System (NCSS) will offer a federal lunch plan this year that makes all students in 17 schools eligible for free meals rather than requiring individual students to prove they qualify.

NCSS is offering the meal plan as part of its participation in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) part of the National School Lunch Program for school year 2022-23, system officials said. 

All students enrolled in CEP-eligible schools will receive meals through the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program at no charge, NCSS officials said. 

Five of the system's 22 schools were found not to be eligible for the program though students in those schools can still qualify on an individual basis, officials said. 

Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey said the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) — not NCSS or the state — set the guidelines for individual schools' eligibility.

"We advocated for the continuation of free breakfast and lunch for all of our students in the school system," Fuhrey told the Newton County School Board Tuesday. "Unfortunately, there's not a lot we can do about that."

Breakfast and lunch will be provided at no charge to all students who attend:

• Fairview Elementary

• Flint Hill Elementary

• Heard-Mixon Elementary

• Live Oak Elementary

• Livingston Elementary

• Middle Ridge Elementary

• Oak Hill Elementary

• Porterdale Elementary

• Rocky Plains Elementary

• South Salem Elementary

• West Newton Elementary

• Clements Middle

• Cousins Middle

• Indian Creek Middle

• Liberty Middle

• Veterans Memorial Middle

• Newton High School

Alcovy High, Eastside High, East Newton Elementary, Mansfield Elementary, and Newton County Theme School were not eligible to participate in CEP, officials said. 

The CEP allows "schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) in low-income areas to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students" without the need to collect household applications to determine eligibility for school meal programs, according to information from the USDA.

Schools with an "Identified Student" percentage of at least 40% in the prior school year were eligible for CEP. Identified students are defined as those certified for free meals without the use of household applications, such as those directly certified through the federal SNAP program, according to the USDA.

Chief Operations Officer Michael Barr said students at the five schools can still qualify for free or reduced price meals.

Students at the five schools can apply by submitting a completed meal application which can obtained at any cafeteria office or at, officials said.

After the meeting, Fuhrey gave additional background about the system's participation in the program.

"Beginning in March 2020, the school system made free meals available to all children in Newton County who chose to participate. This program was made possible by waivers to meal service guidelines established by the (USDA). During this time, parents did not have to complete applications to receive meals at no charge.

"When schools pivoted to an online learning model, meals were distributed at sites throughout the community, including school bus stops. As schools reopened, the school nutrition program staff continued to provide meals to students at community sites and in school cafeterias. 

"The school system understood the community’s needs and worked hard to respond. Not every school district responded this way; however, our school system team believed it was work that needed to be done. Unfortunately, the federal waivers that provided this flexibility expired on June 30, 2022. 

"Despite the U.S. Congress not extending the waivers, ensuring children have access to meals and are ready to learn is essential to the school system’s work. Our school system applied to participate in the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision to continue providing meals at no charge to as many students as possible. CEP allows the school system to provide meals at no cost to students in schools located in low-income areas, as determined by the USDA. 

"Seventeen schools were eligible to participate in the CEP based on the USDA criteria. All students in these schools will receive meals at no charge, and parents will not have to complete an application to receive the meals. Based on eligibility requirements, five schools did not qualify to participate in the CEP.  It is important to know that students who attend these schools may still be eligible for free or reduced-price meals." 

NCSS officials said those with questions about meal benefit determinations can call Mitch Bradford at 678-342-5607 or email 

Breakfast and lunch prices by category for NCSS during school year 2022-23 include: 


• Elementary: $1.00 (Breakfast), $2.10 (Lunch)

• Middle: $1.25, $2.30

• High: $1.25, $2.30

• Reduced: 30 cents, 40 cents


• Adult: $2.25 (Breakfast), $3.75 (Lunch).

For more information about CEP and the NCSS Food and Nutrition Program, call 770-788-3120 or visit and