The old saying goes, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
Well, at least in Brownfield schools this year, the old saying is wrong.
BISD announced this week that the school district qualified to participate in a new program provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and the texas Department of Agriculture known as community Eligibility Provision.
This allows for all school children in the district to receive free breakfast and lunch throughout the coming 2014-15 school year.
BISD Superintendent Dr. Tanya Monroe told the Brownfield News Friday that administrators researched the new program and found plenty of pros and no cons.
“So many of our kids experience food insecurity, so as far as we are concerned, this will make great strides in eliminating that uncertainty from their lives,” she said. “We will make sure that every one of them has access to a nutritious breakfast and lunch every school day.”
The USDA program gives eligible local educational agencies and schools with high percentages of low-income children the option to offer free school meals to all children in those schools without collecting applications.
In the past, families were required to complete lengthy applications in order to qualify for the free lunch program, which sometimes served as a deterrent.
“This program reduces the perceived stigma for the kids and families that need assistance,” Monroe said. “It levels the playing field and gives all of our students the healthy meals they need during the school day with no consideration to income.”
This upcoming school year will be the first that the free and reduced lunch applications will not have to be filled out in order to determine eligibility.
It could save local families several hundreds of dollars per school year.
The program has the potential to save the school district money as well, with fewer forms to digest and less administrative oversight necessary.
The BISD Child Nutrition Dept. is working with the Education Service Centers to provide healthy menus for the upcoming school year that comply with the federal guidelines set by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, signed into law by President Barack Obama.
Dr. Monroe said when children’s nutritional needs are met, they will be more attentive in class as well as have better attendance and fewer disciplinary problems.
“Poor nutrition has an adverse effect on childrens’ health and that then hurts their education,” the superintendent said.
USDA has researched that children who participate in its breakfast and lunch programs have superior nutritional intake compared to those who bring lunch from home.
They also have better overall quality diets than those children that do not participate in the programs.
The new program was presented to all districts in the state and Brownfield qualified to participate.
It only changes how meals are provided and paid for, not the menu options or quality of food.
“The kids won’t notice any difference in our cafeterias,” Dr. Monroe said. “We’re excited about it and happy that everybody is going to be fed while on our watch.”