Greenfield supt. looking into free lunches for kids
GREENFIELD — Two Greenfield elementary schools may feature free lunches for all of their students next year.
The free lunch program, paid for by the United States Department of Agriculture, is available to any Massachusetts school where at least 40 percent of students already qualify for free lunch. The state is hoping that the program will improve nutrition, eliminate stigmas toward poor students and reduce paperwork for school districts.
The food services department is filing an application and will hear back by the end of the spring. Superintendent Susan Hollins said she believes two schools, Federal Street School and Newton School, will qualify.
Once a school qualifies, any students from that school will be able to receive free lunch any school day.
The department serves about 350,000 meals each year and already offers free breakfast for all of its students. About 60 percent of students qualify for free or pay a deeply discounted cost of 40 cents for lunch.
Paid lunches range from $2.60 to $2.95, depending on the grade level, said Bernie Novak, the school department’s food services and nutrition director.
There’s a chance that Greenfield’s enrollment in the free lunch program, called the Community Eligibility Provision, may bring in more revenue for the department next year than it did this year. While Greenfield elementary schools currently receive $2.60 for each paid lunch, they receive a $2.92 federal reimbursement for each free lunch.
Novak said it’s too early to tell if the free lunch program will affect staffing.
Students need to qualify for free lunch under a program other than the school’s free lunch application, said Jacqueline Reis, a spokeswoman from the state’s department of elementary and secondary education.
Massachusetts schools were eligible to apply for the program this year, but it became available in late spring last year so most schools were unable to work it into their budget process, said Reis.
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