Education

More School Districts Offer Free Meals to Every Student

June 12, 2014

No more digging for loose change at the cash register — and the stigma of accepting free meals may go away, too.

All Metro Nashville students, regardless of income and grade, will have access to free school lunches and breakfasts when school begins in August, under a new federal program the district has decided to join.

The shift is predicted to have a powerful effect — more kids will eat. It might also mean longer lunch lines, which already has principals reviewing lunch schedules.

According to Metro's Chief Operating Officer Fred Carr, Nashville's public school district meets thresholds outlined in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Community Eligibility Provision program, which is available to predominantly low-income districts nationwide beginning July 1.

Federal agriculture officials call the program an "alternative approach for offering meals" rather than collecting and processing individual applications for federal free and reduced lunches. Instead, through the National School Lunch Program, schools serve all meals at no cost.

Local districts are then reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of students identified as eligible for free meals, one that relies on information from other programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

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