About 60% of Ky. schools give all students free breakfast and lunch; federal program for those with mainly low-income students

photo: Kentucky Department of Education

During the 2014-15 school year, 104 of the 173 public school districts in Kentucky provided free breakfast and lunch to all students, with 610 schools and 279,263 children benefiting in the program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

They were able to do this through the Community Eligibility Provision program, which allows school districts with predominantly low-income children to serve all students free lunch and breakfast. Kentucky was one of the first three states chosen to participate in the pilot program in 2011-12, which is now available nationwide. CEP is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

“Schools implementing CEP have reported great success, citing eased administrative burden, more efficient meal service operations, and increased program participation,” Angela Kline, director of USDA policy and program development, said in an online letter to the regional and state directors of the program. “Most importantly, students attending CEP schools can count on two nutritious meals every school day, helping low-income families to stretch limited food budgets while reducing hunger among our nation’s children.”

This is the first year the East Bernstadt Independent school district in Laurel County has participated in the program. Marcella Hensley, the food service director, called the program a success and said they plan to apply for the program again next year, Mike Moore reports for The Sentinel-Echo in London.

The northern Laurel County district has 462 students in K-8, plus 55 preschool students, Moore reports. Since the program began at the start of the school year, Hensley told Moore that she has seen a 2-percent increase of breakfasts and lunches being served, adding that the cafeteria staff prepares 980 breakfasts and 2,064 lunches per week. She said this amounts to about 70 to 80 more students at lunch each day and 80 to 90 more students at breakfast, compared to previous years.

 “I feel that if a child eats a breakfast, they function better in class,” Hensley told Moore. “They’re more alert and ready for what they’ve got coming at them academically-wise. To me, breakfast is more important because they function better during the day. If we see their faces more at breakfast, I feel like they’re going to do better in class.”

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