More Ohio students will get free school meals next school year thanks to changes to federal school meal programs.
The way most school meal programs work now, parents have to fill out an application in order for their child to get free meals at school. And school districts have to process those applications and ensure that students who are eligible get free meals and those who aren’t don’t.
But a 2010 federal law changes that by basically allowing school districts to show once that at least 40 percent of their students are on welfare. After that, all students in a district receive free meals and the district receives federal reimbursement for the meals’ cost.
As of last week, 177 Ohio schools and educational service centers had applied for the free lunch for all option, formally called the Community Eligibility Option. Among the applicants are schools in Dayton, Akron and Marion.
The idea is to reduce both the number of hungry children and the amount of paperwork for schools, the Springfield News Sun says:
“Given the economy today, there’s a lot of parents that do not have jobs or their children are in a single-parent home who don’t have the extra income to provide their children with lunches and breakfast,” [mother Tonya Arnold] said. “We’ll know that our children will have two decent meals to help children and to help the families.”
The initiative part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 which is perhaps better known for changing the nutritional requirements for food served served in schools.
The initiative is being rolled out a few states at a time. Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee started last year. Ohio, New York, West Virginia and District of Columbia schools can start offering it in the 2012-13 school year. By the 2014-15 school, the new school meal option will be offered to schools in all states, according to the federal Department of Agriculture, which oversees national school meal programs.
The new initiative, along with another similar program, will cost about $16 million over five years, according to the USDA.