The Jefferson County Board of Education approved on Tuesday night a program that will provide free breakfast and lunch to 55,000 students in 95 schools each day of class, regardless of the students’ individual family income.
The program allows schools with a large percentage of students who qualify for free meals to provide free breakfast and lunches for the entire student body. Until now, a student was eligible for free meals only if their family met federal guidelines—for example, $23,850 or less per year for a family of four.
Superintendent Donna Hargens said Tuesday said providing meals to students in the some of the district’s lowest-income schools is important for improving student performance.
“We know that nutrition and achievement go hand in hand,” she said. “We are glad that it can just be a seamless operation in the background and the kids can eat, then focus on learning.”
During the meeting, board member David Jones Jr. questioned whether the program would disrupt the district’s enrollment pattern. He said the program may create a financial incentive for families to send children to a school with free lunches, instead of paying the cost for a meal.
A student may spend about $700 per year on school breakfast and lunch, said Julia Bauscher, the district’s director of school and community nutrition services.
She said the district will monitor the enrollment pattern during the initial year to watch for changes that may lead to transportation or fiscal issues.
Inclusion in the Community Eligibility Provision will be valid for four years, but Bauscher said she was unsure if an earlier exit was possible if the program appears to be failing.
These are the 95 schools where meals will be free to all students regardless of income: