Common sense policy is what we’re all about!
The Atlanta Public School (APS) system just increased the number of schools offering free breakfast and lunch to students.
According to the AJC, beginning this school year, any student who attends a district run public or charter school, using the district’s food service, is eligible for the free meals. The newly added schools brings the total to 77 schools offering free breakfast and lunch, meaning most students attending schools in Atlanta can eat free.
We have long heard the stories of towering school lunch debt across the country. People have galvanized to get behind this cause, citing the ridiculousness of children having to worry about eating at school on top of everything else. In 2017, Ashley C. Ford, a New York based writer tweeted about the mounting school lunch debt and encouraged her followers to help pay off a lunch account in their area, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cause.
In order to qualify for free and reduced lunch, schools have to show that at least 40% of students come from low income families that receive food stamp benefits. 49% of Atlanta students met those requirements. Marilyn Hughes, executive director of the APS nutrition department told the AJC that “students need to have their basic needs met in order to learn. If they’ve eaten, they will have the complete attention that they need.”
The district receives federal reimbursement for the free lunches through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision program, which began in 2010. Last year, APS received over $23 million in reimbursements from the program, which helps to balance out the cost it takes to implement the free lunches.
Families at participating schools no longer need to fill out paperwork for their child to receive a free meal, lessening the stigma of receiving free lunch and making sure that no student is going hungry. The new program has even seen an increase in student participation, nearly doubling the amount of students that eat breakfast and lunch at certain schools. The district also replaced their school lunch vendors, and students are really enjoying their new meal options.
Sage Harrison, an eighth grader at Drew Charter School said that she usually brings her lunch but school lunch tastes better this year. “I feel like if you can’t afford to bring your own lunch or if you just forget, it’s just easier. It just makes it better,” Harrison said. With the new program in place, the district is hoping to find ways to encourage parents to donate former lunch money to other school initiatives.
We hope that more school districts follow suit. With everything going on in our schools and with our children, healthy and affordable food options should be the last thing they have to worry about.
Photo courtesy of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution