July 24, 2014

KC, Hickman Mills schools to erase stigma with free meals

It’s a bold step to provide free breakfast and lunch for all students in high-poverty schools, but it fits the need for wrap-around social services.

When classes begin next month in the Kansas City and Hickman Mills school districts, all children will be assured access to breakfast and lunch.

The shift will save money on paperwork required for free and reduced price lunches while protecting children from attempting to learn on an empty stomach.

All 15,000 children in Kansas City Public Schools and 6,200 in Hickman Mills will get both meals at no cost under a new federal provision that aids high-poverty schools.

The move eliminates the stigma of students in the meal program. And it protects children whose parents might not want to admit the family needs help, and children whose families may run short on lunch money occasionally or simply forget to bring a lunch.

It’s a bold step but fits the need for wrap-around social services.

The two districts quality for the federal program because each has high percentages of students already receiving meal assistance — 92 percent in Kansas City and 86 percent in Hickman Mills.

Academic success hinges on students getting a healthy breakfast and lunch. The move fits federal efforts to reduce hunger and obesity among children and improve nutrition.

The program helps level the playing field in the classroom and should feed new academic competitiveness and scholastic success.

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