Columbus City Schools officials this morning announced a bold move to get more kids to eat breakfast and lunch at school.
Alison Holm reports.
There's no question that improving nutrition improves students performance, and for years the Columbus City Schools have tried to increase the number of students taking advantage of free and reduced lunch and breakfast. Superintendent Dan Good says the "Power Up" with free meals program cuts thru the paperwork and will offer free meals for all students, regardless of income level. About 80 percent of students in Columbus qualify free and reduced meals, and in the past participation depended on parents filling out forms to return to school. But an alternate USDA program verifies the number of students within a district that fit certain qualifying categories in order to determine eligibility. Food Service Director Joe Brown says in Columbus' case, that means all students will automatically qualify, some 50-thousand students a day. Brown says programs nationwide have seen a 9 percent increase in the number of students eating at school in districts that have eliminated the fee. He says Columbus may not see as dramatic an increase; currently 72 percent of students take advantage of the free and reduced lunch program, and 46 percent pick up breakfast as well.