All students in as many as 102 of Kentucky’s 174 school districts will get a free lunch every day starting next month. Kentucky is one of three states to be chosen for the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s Universal Meal Service pilot program, which is to run for the next four years.
To be in the program, a school must have at least 40 percent of its students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch through regular USDA programs, based on household income. Schools must also be certified with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program (KTAP), the successor of welfare. Districts containing eligible schools must notify the Kentucky Department of Education‘s Division of School and Community Nutrition of their intent to participate by July 29. Parents “don’t have to do anything to make this happen,” said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for KDE.
“Really what this program is designed to do is cut down on the bureaucracy,” Gross said.” “If a school is identified as eligible, that takes care of a lot of reporting. It’s designed to cut down on the red tape.” Tennessee and Illinois are the other two states chosen to participate. By 2014, all states will be eligible for it, under requirements of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
The Covington and Owsley County school districts have the highest percentage of students — 88 percent — eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch. Magoffin County has the second highest with 86 percent followed by Newport (85%); Bell County (83%); and West Point Independent in Hardin County (81%). To see a list of all 102 eligible districts, click here.