- Associated Press - Thursday, July 24, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Kansas City and Hickman Mills school districts will offer free lunch to every student starting in August.

A new provision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows qualifying districts with high percentages of students on food assistance to feed all of their students. School districts expect to recover the loss from food costs with savings from eliminating the expensive paperwork and bureaucracy needed to manage lunch accounts, The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday (https://bit.ly/1kdMJ4m ).

“This is a foundational part of a student’s well-being,” Kansas City Superintendent Steve Green said. Many of the children in the district “are counting on us for their breakfast and their lunch. This is a powerful program.”

Ninety percent of the students in the Kansas City Public Schools qualify for free or reduced-price meals, and 86 percent in Hickman Mills. The districts strive to get food assistance to all families who need it and to make it as discreet as possible when children pass through the lunch line.

But many children going through lunch lines were caught in uncomfortable circumstances, said nutrition directors in both districts. Students type an identification number at the cashier. The cashier’s machine then notes the student whose meal is free, and the account balance of the student who pays.

Ellen Cram, Kansas City’s nutrition director, said more children will be eating the lunch line’s healthy meals.

“Everyone can feel comfortable going through the line, with no stigma,” she said.

Other districts in the area are considering using the provision, but some districts with more students who pay for their lunches said it’s not financially feasible for them to use it.

David Smith, a chief of staff in the Kansas City, Kansas, school district, said his district is investigating to determine if it makes sense to use the program there.

The Center School District in Missouri is exploring its options, spokeswoman Kelly Wachel said.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com


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