- Associated Press - Friday, July 11, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Several Alabama school systems are getting ready to offer breakfast and lunch free to all students when classes resume in August.

The state Department of Education said school systems qualifying for the free meals under the federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act have poverty levels that are 40 percent or higher. The program is mostly funded by the federal government, department spokeswoman Erica Pippins said Friday.

The department said systems that have all or nearly all of their schools approved for the program are Montgomery County, Barbour County, Clarke County, Lowndes County, Wilcox County, Selma, Tarrant, Midfield, Chickasaw, Albertville, Dallas County, Macon County, Linden, Bessemer and Anniston.

The majority of Alabama’s school systems have poverty levels above 40 percent, according to the federal government.

The free meals apply to all students regardless of their family income. Students will pay for extra meals or for purchasing items individually.

Montgomery school Superintendent Margaret Allen said studies have shown children who receive proper nutrition perform better in school.

“Many of our families live below the poverty line. Even those that don’t may skip meals to save money,” she said Thursday. “This will ensure learning won’t suffer because a student is hungry at school.”

About 57 percent of the students in the Montgomery County public schools are rated as living in poverty.

Pippins said it is up to qualifying school systems to decide if all schools participate or only some.

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