Eighty percent of Jefferson County public school students receiving free meals

08/19/2015 01:45 PM

LOUISVILLE – All students in 127 of the 146 schools in the Jefferson County School District will receive free breakfast and lunch during the 2015 – 2016 school year.

The free meals are part of the “Community Eligibility Program” provision which was part of the Congressional Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 which has been slowly rolled out in all 50 states. Every state had access for the first time during the 2014/15 school year.

In order to qualify for the program, at least 62.5 percent of students in a school must be receiving federal assistance such as SNAP, KTAP, and certain forms of Medicaid.

Julia Bauscher, Jefferson County Publican Schools school and nutrition services director, says that 67 percent of all students in the Jefferson County district are classified as free and reduced lunch.

Some have questioned why all students at the eligible schools receive the free meals; even those with families can afford to pay for them.

“One of the problems with the traditional program is that there is a stigma associated with receiving a free meal,” Bauscher said. “Our own numbers show that when paid students don’t participate in the program, students eligible for free and reduced benefits, who really need access to food and healthy school meals, don’t participate. So, making everyone eligible to participate at no charge ensures that all students can receive a healthy school meal.”

Ninety-six schools were eligible for the program last year, which was the first year for the provision. Thirty-one schools were added for the 2015-16 school year. The district is taking care of needy students who attend the 19 schools which are not eligible for the free meal benefits.

“One of the important things that we did for those 19 schools this year, because we could not include them in the program, but we wanted to help the families that may be at risk, we eliminated the reduced price meal payment,” Bauscher said. “So students who are eligible for reduced meals in the remaining nineteen schools do not have to pay for their breakfast or their lunch.”

Bauscher says that over 80,000 Jefferson County students are participating in the program.

Statewide, 126 of 196 school food authorities are participating in the Community Eligibility Program. Of the 126 districts participating, ninety three of the districts are 100 percent CEP. Thirty-three of the districts, like Jefferson, are partial CEP.

For a list of all of the current schools in Jefferson County participating in the program
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