By SUE SUCHYTA
Free lunch and breakfast will be served to all students in two local districts this school year, regardless of family income, through the United States Department of Agriculture Community Eligibility Provision.
CEP is a four-year reimbursement program that lets eligible low income school districts opt in or out of the program, for up to four years, and is an alternative to household eligibility applications and reduced price meals.
Districts in turn agree to cover the cost of providing free meals to all students above the amounts provided through the federal program with non-federal funds.
By providing all students with free breakfast and lunch, it eliminates overt identification of students, as well as the stigma, and it improves nutritional options for at-risk students.
School district paperwork is reduced, meal counting is simplified, and potentially more children participate in the program.
Communications to parents from the districts suggests that students who are better nourished are more likely to succeed, and families can save money through the program.
“We advertise it as breakfast and lunch at no cost,” Lincoln Park Public Schools Supt. Terry Dangerfield said. “For the next four years our students, at K through 12, in every school building, will be eligible to receive that service.”
Dangerfield said Lincoln Park has just under 5,000 students in the district. He said breakfast will be served half an hour before the start of the school day, but even if students arrive later, school personnel will make sure that they are fed.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])