Students enrolled in all 77 of Atlanta’s public schools would receive a free lunch regardless of their family’s income.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported that the students will start receiving their free meals at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, thanks to a congressional program dating back to 2010 called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) subsidizes the meals through this congressional program, and “allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications,” according to the USDA’s website on the initiative.
A school qualifies for the provision if at least 40 percent of students in a school district receive a form of welfare such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Forty-nine percent of students at Atlanta Public Schools met the public assistance requirement, thus making the entire district eligible for the free lunch program.
In 2018, Atlanta Public Schools received $23.2 million in federal reimbursements for its school lunch program, and officials say they expect to receive enough money to cover the program as costs increase, the AJC reported.
A full priced lunch for elementary school students cost $2.25 in 2018 and $2.50 for middle school and high school students.
Lunch money debt is a national issue affecting 75 percent of school districts all over the country, according to a report from the school nutrition association.
In one Pennsylvania school district, parents were told their children would end up in foster care if they do not pay their outstanding balances on school lunch bills.