Athens > All Students Eligible for Free School Lunch

| April 18, 2015

Downtown Athens, Georgia

ATHENS —  Clarke County students will eligible to eat free breakfast and lunch in schools next year.

The Clarke County School District plans to take advantage of a new “community eligibility provision” the U.S. Department of Agriculture began offering in Georgia last year.

The provision allows school districts with high levels of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches to dispense with the paperwork and screening that some students have to complete to show they’re eligible for the program.

Joining the program will be more meals served daily — some 5 to 7 percent more breakfasts, and about 10 percent more lunches, said Ted Gilbert, Clarke County’s associate superintendent for district services.

Because the USDA reimburses the school district for meals served, serving the additional meals will not mean additional costs for the school district, Clarke County Schools Superintendent Philip Lanoue told Clarke County Board of Education members at a recent meeting.

Schools where more than 40 percent of students qualify for free lunches can get into the program. In Clarke County, the percentage of students who qualify for free lunches ranges from a low of about 41 percent at one school to as much as 76 percent, according to Georgia Department of Education statistics. More than 80 percent of Clarke County students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. But some don’t participate because they don’t fill out paperwork because of embarrassment or other reasons, Gilbert said.

The universal program is designed to remove the stigma of free lunch that students may feel.

None of the school districts in Georgia that entered the program have come out of it according to a report in the Florida Times Union.

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