Wilson Prep opts out of USDA meal program

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Wilson Preparatory Academy has chosen not to take part in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school meal program this year.

“It is not required for schools to be part of the USDA food program,” said Janet Conner-Knox, a spokeswoman for the charter school.

Parents were notified at orientation that food service from K&W Cafeteria was being replaced with “My Hot Lunchbox,” a meal delivery program where parents order meals online from local restaurants that produce the meals and deliver them to the school.

Parents are given a smartphone app where they can choose among offerings from Domino’s Pizza, Subway, Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes and Fries, Chick-fil-A and Moe’s Southwest Grill.

“Parents and students are happy with the options we have,” Conner-Knox said. She added that the meal program is in compliance with N.C. Department of Public Instruction guidelines.

“Having a state program for lunch is not mandatory,” Conner-Knox said. “We have in place a standard to assure nutritional quality in the lunch choices. Scholars like the variety of choices they have. My Hot Lunchbox choices also give parents flexibility in how much or little they would like to spend on lunches each day.”

Conner-Knox said the school still offers financial assistance to families in paying for the meals.

Conner-Knox said reports on the “Wilson Preparatory Academy Parents” Facebook forum in which some parents claimed that children were going hungry at the school are unfounded.

“As always since the beginning of this school, we have always assisted families in need in a discreet, confidential manner,” Conner-Knox said.

“Since we are not a part of the USDA program, we did not send out a survey for free or reduced lunches,” Conner-Knox said. “However, we sent and will continue to send correspondence to all parents to let us know if they need any kind of assistance. That includes uniforms, transportation, field trips, etc.”

Conner-Knox said the school does not let children go without food or access to activities.

“Students often forget to bring their lunch. If a student forgets, we offer them an alternative choice that is nutritious,” Conner-Knox said. “We also notify the parent if they forget their lunch so they can bring an alternative.”

Conner-Knox said if children from a needy family would never be able to afford lunch, the school will assist them to make sure they don’t go without.

“We discreetly take care of families who are in need,” Daryl M. Woodard, school founder and executive director, said in a prepared statement. “We care about all of our scholars. Whether families need assistance in lunches, uniforms or in other areas, we want our scholars to be able to be successful in their studies, which means assisting families that need our help.”

Conner-Knox was not aware of how many of the 860 children at the school qualified for financial assistance for their meals. In According to the N.C. Department of Pubic Instruction,, some 31 percent of students at the school were considered economically disadvantaged in 2016-17.