All Boston Public School District students will be eligible for both free breakfast and lunch this year, regardless of their financial status, the district announced Tuesday.
The district previously offered free or reduced-price meals to students who qualified based on their family’s income. However, as part of a federal program called the “Community Eligibility Option,” lunch and breakfast fees will be waived for all students, the district announced in a press release, first reported by The Boston Globe.
Boston is one of the largest cities participating in the program, which is available in 10 states and the District of Columbia. The program seeks to make it easier for kids to get free meals by not requiring families to fill out burdensome paperwork, The Boston Globe reported.
“Every child has a right to healthy, nutritious meals in school, and when we saw a chance to offer these healthy meals at no cost to them, we jumped at the chance,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino in the district press release. “This takes the burden of proof off our low-income families and allows all children, regardless of income, to know healthy meals are waiting for them at school every day.”
Under standards previously used by the district, 78 percent of BPS students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. However, according to the press release, “many of those who do not qualify fall just beyond income limits.”
“It allows our staff and our cashiers to focus on what’s really important, and that’s ensuring students going through the line have the full reimbursable meal, that they have everything on their plate because that’s our core business; feeding children,” Michael Peck, the director of food service and nutrition for the district, told CBS Boston.
The district’s announcement comes after a recent study by the No Kid Hungry organization that revealed that nearly 73 percent of teachers said they regularly instruct students who come to school hungry and 87 percent of principals said they consistently encounter hungry children.
“I think what has happened is the so-called economic recovery hasn’t really reached low-income people. People are still really having a tough time, and that’s what we’re seeing,” Christy Felling, No Kid Hungry public relations director, told The Huffington Post when discussing the study. “We’ve seen it anecdotally with some of our campaigns around the country. People still haven’t gone back to work, or they’ve blown through savings.”