MOUNT VERNON, IL (WSIL) – The Illinois General Assembly is almost at the end of its spring session, and one of their bills would provide healthy meals for students.
But in some southern Illinois schools, providing free meals has been a priority for some time.
“It’s a big deal because it guarantees that every child in the state gets to see what we see every day,” said Bethel Principal/Superintendent Charley Cass.
When it comes to essentials for every student, making sure they can get a healthy meal is a priority. That’s the feeling of Cass and others at Bethel Grade School.
“We’re 75 percent in high poverty, so there’s a need here,” Cass said.
At Bethel Grade School, students eat breakfast and lunch for free.
“It’s something that our school district doesn’t see as a bonus, we see it as a necessity,” Cass said. “We’re already a community eligibility school, so all of our kids already eat for free.”
A bill heading to Governor Pritzker’s desk would provide a healthy meal for all students through 12th grade. With the passage of the bill, Cass says the worry that all administrators stress over when it comes to feeding students will end.
“We’re happy when they eat,” Cass said. “On any given day in our lunchroom, children smile, they laugh, they talk and they eat.”
Cass says credit goes to Bethel head chef Melissa Williams and her staff for giving the students a variety.
“Melissa does a pretty good job of looking at the products that are available to her,” Cass said. “She buys food she knows kids will like, and sometimes we experiment with it with different foods.”
And having people you can count on to feed students a good meal is something Cass doesn’t take for granted.
“Sometimes I get into the pencil-pushed ruts, but I know I have a very motherly figure in there, paying attention to what they’re eating, how well they’re eating, and she’s always trying something new to make sure they eating something. new,” Cass said. “She’s getting very creative with the menu and that’s nice.”