No student in Lake County Schools will have to go hungry during the school day next year, as breakfasts and lunches will be offered at no charge to all students regardless of household income. Charter schools may not be offering this program

The free meals are a result of the Community Eligibility Provision, a federal program that allows schools serving predominantly low-income communities to offer breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge. Students will still have to purchase snack foods and additional menu items with cash or on their account.

The School Nutrition Association says that serving all students for free ensures children have access to healthy school meals every day and eliminates the stigma for those who rely on free school meals as a key source of nutrition. Additionally, the association says that having all students share the same meal together in the cafeteria helps strengthen a sense of school community and fosters healthy eating habits.

As an added benefit, eliminating the payment process speeds up the lunch line, giving students more time to eat their meal.

“There’s another benefit for the school district,” said Gary Dodds, Food Service Supervisor for the district. “The free meals may draw more students to participate, and that means more funding for the school meal program that can be used for food, labor, and equipment.”

CEP reduces administrative costs for schools by reducing postage for meal benefit applications, eliminates concerns about negative lunch account balances and gives cafeteria staff more time to focus on planning and preparing healthy meals, he said.

“We see this as a big win for our students, their families, and the district,” Dodds said.

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