TAMPA, Fla — Relief is coming soon to parents who may find it difficult to provide or pay for breakfast and lunch during their children's school year.
A majority of students in Hillsborough County schools are now eligible to get free breakfast and lunch all year long. School district leaders explain this was made possible as part of a federal reimbursement program called the Community Eligibility Provision.
The initiative was adopted last month by the school board.
Starting in the fall, meals will be offered to all students at no cost at any school "where 40% or more of the students are eligible to receive free and reduced lunch due to their family's economic circumstances," a news release from the school district explains.
“Our Student Nutrition Services staff members work hard to ensure students have access to nutritious meals to fuel their day. This program will help thousands of families who are food insecure while also decreasing paperwork and red tape for parents, schools, and our nutrition staff,” Shani Hall, General Manager of Student Nutrition Services, said in a statement.
In total, 174 schools fit the criteria to participate in free breakfast and lunch, including:
School leaders say this initiative will make it easier for more than 127,000 students to have food access.
“We listened to families who were worried about losing free lunches as part of the USDA reimbursement program during the pandemic," Superintendent Addison Davis said in a statement. "Our district wants to take the burden off parents by making it easier for students to gain access to healthy meals at school.
"While we celebrate the convenience, research also shows schools accessing this program report an increase in standardized test scores, attendance improvement, and various mental health benefits."