BOSTON (AP) — Some students toted lunchboxes to the first day of school in
Boston this week, but district administrators are expecting that could
become a more unusual sight as parents learn about a federal program
that is now providing all public school students in the city with free
breakfast and lunch.
The nation's oldest school system has joined a program of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture that has spread to 10 states and the District
of Columbia that offers students two free meals every school day,
whether or not their families can afford them.
"It's one less weight and one less burden for parents," said Joshua
Rivera, whose son is a second-grader at the Maurice J. Tobin School in
Boston's Roxbury section.
And, officials say, serving more kids actually saves them money.
Known as Community Eligibility Option, the program is part of the
Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that authorized $4.5 billion in
new program funding.
For schools to qualify, federal officials said, more than 40 percent
of students have to be getting food stamps or aid through certain other
federal assistance programs.
Besides easing hunger, school officials said, the program helps erase a stigma that plagued some students from poor families.
Boston joins schools in Michigan, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and
elsewhere in a program that will be available across the country
starting in the 2014-2015 school year.
Efrain Toledano, principal of the Tobin School, said he expects the
program will cut down on potential disruptions at the K-8 school by
easing hunger pangs that could be linked to classroom misbehavior.
"We know that calm stomachs means calm students who are ready to learn in classrooms," he said Wednesday.
The program eliminates costs of paperwork connected to meal
applications and expenses associated with handling cafeteria cash,
In Boston, officials won't have to hire couriers to drop off and pick
up applications at the city's 127 schools, Peck said. They also may be
able to cancel armored-car pickups of cafeteria money.
An Atlanta Public Schools spokeswoman said students at 58 of the
city's 100 public schools started getting free breakfast and lunch this
year under the program. A spokeswoman for District of Columbia Public
Schools said 76 out of 111 district schools are part of the program,
which started there in the last school year.
Detroit Public Schools joined the federal program during the 2011-12
school year, and a spokeswoman said 52,000 breakfasts and 60,000 lunches
were served daily to students in the last school year.
In western Michigan, an administrator with Grand Rapids Public
Schools said the district has been serving free breakfast and lunch for
its 17,000 students since the 2012-2013 school year started.
Paul Baumgartner, nutrition service director, said that breakfast
counts skyrocketed after the program began and that it saves families
the hassle of filling out applications.
"The rationale is we've got these communities that have demonstrated
severe need," he said. "Why don't we see if we can reduce some of these
Tuesday, July 29 2014 6:51 AM EDT2014-07-29 10:51:04 GMT
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