Federal program allows NC schools to feed all students for free

Posted September 30, 2014 4:16 p.m. EDT

— About 650 schools throughout the state are opting into a program to provide free breakfast and lunch for all students.

It is part of a new program called Community Eligibility Provision, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The idea is to allow schools with high percentages of low-income children to offer free meals for all, instead of collecting individual applications for free and reduced-price meals.

A school qualifies if at least 40 percent of its students are eligible for free meals or participate in another federal income-based program. The number of homeless, migrant, runaway, Head Start or foster children is also taken into consideration.

In Durham, 10 schools are offering free meals to all students.

“If no child is stigmatized based on their meal status, and everyone is treated the same… It sort of breaks down those barriers and lets children be a community together,” said James Keaton, the district’s executive director of school nutrition.

Keaton said the program also targets children who may not qualify for free and reduced lunches, but can heavily benefit from free meals.

“A lot of those kids, their mothers might be dropping them off at school while they’re on their way to the first of their two jobs and they may not have time to feed their kids,” Keaton said.

State officials say they’re trying to encourage all qualified schools to apply for the federal program.

This report first appeared on WUNC/North Carolina Public Radio as part of their education coverage.

Reema Khrais is the 2014 Fletcher Fellow focused on Education Policy Reporting. The Fletcher Fellowship is a partnership between WUNC
and UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication funded in part by the Fletcher Foundation.