Every student will receive free lunch at Huntington County Community School Corporation until Dec. 31, according to an announcement at Monday’s board meeting.

HCCSC Assistant Superintendent of Business Administration Scott Bumgartner said he received confirmation Friday that the corporation received a grant to fund the program. Bumgartner said the director of food services, Ken Akins, applied for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant earlier this year.

“We’ve got a very special announcement tonight,” Bumgartner said. “... Starting within the next few days, every student in Huntington County Community School Corporation will receive their lunch for free. This will be all students, all ages, all grades, and they are saying it will go until Dec. 31, but they’re saying until the money runs out.”

Superintendent Chad Daugherty thanked the staff for putting in the hard work to get the grant.

“We are just so happy that Ken took the time to apply for this grant. We are so excited or our community and excited for our students because we know what a burden that can be on families,” Bumgartner said. “For the sake that we may get three months of free lunches for all of our students across our district, we are just really pleased.”

Bumgartner said the corporation will be notifying parents about the grant as soon as they can secure the amount of food needed to provide meals to the corporation’s nearly 5,000 students.

Board members applauded the staff for putting in the extra work to secure the program.

That’s a big deal,” board member Kevin Yarger said. “It affects everyone.”

“It’s wonderful. I don’t speak on behalf of the board, but I speak on behalf of me – as a father of four – that is wonderful news,” board member Reed Christiansen said.

The corporation also announced that HCCSC employees Andy Helms and Deb Daugherty secured a nearly $75,000 grant that will be used to strengthen the corporation’s digital capacity. He said the grant will be used for training staff on blended and digital learning.

Bumgartner also announced that the corporation will receive more than $640,000 from the federal CARES Act to help with personal protection equipment needs for the corporation. Bumgartner said the award was announced Sunday after multiple revisions of the corporation’s application.

In other business, the board also reviewed employee health benefits as contract negotiations are beginning for items up for renewal.

The corporation heard a presentation about how there have been higher health insurance claims in the past two years that has caused the corporation to run on a deficit recently. Board members discussed how they would like to have more control over the funds they provide the independent board that executes the program.

Board president Matt Roth asked if there was any way the school board could require the trust to seek cost-saving measures since the board provides nearly half a million dollars to the trust each year.

The trust’s president said the independent board is thinking about no longer allowing policy holders to pick between Lutheran and Parkview health options so that the corporation could save money to make the trust fund more solvent.

Board member Matt Melcher said both the county and city decided to go with a single health provider to help save money. Melcher said he believes both entities use a Parkview plan.

The trust president said he will be looking into that option more, and HCCSC officials said the president will be back to present his findings.

The corporation also gave a presentation on the 2021 budget, citing concerns on declining enrollment. A full article on the budget presentation will be published in the Sept. 19 edition of the Herald-Press.