The Education and Workforce Committee approved a bill to change the way the National School Lunch Program works.
However, the bill will still need a full House vote.
Right now, through a measure called community eligibility, a school’s entire student body is eligible for free lunches if at least 40 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
In Cleveland City Schools, all students eat for free – but that will change, and principal Mike Collier says – that’s disappointing.
“It’s going to impact us. I mean, there’s no way that it wouldn’t,” he said.
Right now, if 40 percent of students live in poverty, in a specific school, that school qualified for free meals for all students, paid for by the federal government.
The bill will increase that to 60 percent, meaning Cleveland Middle wouldn’t apply anymore.
Administrators at Cleveland City Schools, like Supervisor of Child Nutrition, Susan Miller, says they’ve known about since January.
“You cannot teach a hungry child. And, so, that’s what we’re here for is to make sure that every child has an opportunity to be prepared to learn everyday,” she said.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a D.C. think- tank, says millions of children across the U.S., and here in our area, are at risk of losing meal access.
The measure could potentially put students in some of the country’s poorest communities at risk for missing meals.
Principal Collier says the school system will do what they can to prevent this from happening.
“Kids are our number one priority. And one way or another – we’re gonna make sure that they have the opportunity to eat breakfast, and we’re gonna make sure they have the opportunity to eat lunch regardless of who they are and what the circumstances are,” he said.
The sponsor of the bill, Representative Todd Rokita, wants the eligibility to change to 60 percent because, he says, they’ll be able to provide summer meals and better breakfasts for those most in need.
But, opponents say some students who do qualify won’t apply because of the social stigma associated with free and reduced lunch.