BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch? This year hundreds of parents in the Bay-Waveland School District won't have to worry about coming up with lunch money for their children.
Cafeteria workers at North Bay Elementary were busy sorting inventory on Monday as they get ready to feed hungry school children. However, this year they won't have to sort out which students have to pay for their meals from those who don't.
"There is no free, reduced, or paid status, so all meals are free for those three schools," said Bradley Barlow, Director of Operations. "That applies to breakfast and lunch."
North Bay Elementary, Waveland Elementary, and Bay Middle School all qualified for the USDA's Community Eligibility Provision program because of the high number of children from low income families.
"Forty percent of the students enrolled have to be receiving some sort of government assistance programs, their households. So that could be anything from SNAP food or meal benefits, food distribution programs for Indian Reservations," said Barlow. "There could be a child in the house that is enrolled in Head Start. Also, it takes into account those students classified as homeless, foster care, migrant, or runaway."
School officials said the free meals are good news for the parents of 1,500 students. With breakfast costing $1.75 and lunch $2.75, school officials said parents can potentially save more than $800 a year per child.
"During these hard economic times, I do believe our parents and our community will be very appreciative to know that any child from kindergarten to eighth grade will receive a free hot meal every day that meets all the nutritional requirements from USDA," said Superintendent Dr. Rebecca Ladner.
School officials hope now that breakfast is free more children will eat a morning meal, which could improve learning in the classroom. Parents will also get a break from filing out extensive paperwork.
"After this school year, parents with their kids, kindergarten to eighth grade, will not have to fill out that free and reduced form, which is quite lengthy for a family to fill out," Dr. Ladner said. "We did go ahead and require it this year, because we were not sure that we had been accepted until a few days after registration. But next year when they register, that will cut down on the paperwork that they're required to fill out. "
The Picayune School District was approved for the grant at all of its elementary schools. That means all children kindergarten to sixth grade will eat for free this coming school year. Hattiesburg and Laurel School districts were also approved.