BELOIT (AP) – Every student in the School District of Beloit will receive free breakfast and lunch this school year regardless of their family’s income, as part of a federal program to ensure that children have access to nutritious meals.
Starting on Sept. 2, the first day of school, the district’s Board of Education will offer universal free lunches in addition to its current universal breakfast program, the Beloit Daily News reported.
“There are strong links to academic achievement and behavior,” district spokeswoman Janelle Marotz said. “When students are hungry they can’t focus on learning. We have to take care of their physical needs before we can meet their academic needs.”
In order for schools to qualify for universal free lunches, at least 40 percent of their students must be receiving free or reduced-price lunches. As of June, 77 percent of students in the Beloit district qualified for them.
Students won’t have to provide household-income applications to receive the lunches, but the district will still collect them for the purposes of other funding programs, Marotz said.
The program is called the Community Eligibility Provision. It’s part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
At least 55 districts covering 295 schools across Wisconsin have applied for the Community Eligibility Provision, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.
Of those, 26 districts and 200 schools have been approved, said Maureen Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the Hunger Task Force. More schools could be approved as the Aug. 31 application deadline approaches, she added.