LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Nearly 3,000 students at Atherton High School and Crosby Middle School would begin receiving free breakfast and lunch this fall – regardless of their income – under a plan expected to be approved by the school board on Tuesday.

The move means that approximately 85,000 JCPS students at 129 schools would be eligible to receive the free meals thanks to the federal Community Eligibility Program that enables high-poverty districts across the country to offer the meals to all students at schools with enough kids that are certified as qualifying for free lunch.

Meanwhile, students at 17 schools that are still ineligible to serve free meals to all students may see an a 10-cent increase in the price of their lunches in the 2016-17 school year, due to a mandate that requires the district to raise meal prices until it reaches the amount that it is reimbursed by the federal government.

The new school lunch prices, also pending approval by the school board Tuesday, would increase the cost of elementary school lunches from $2.60 to $2.70, while lunch at the middle and high level would rise to $2.85. Breakfast prices would remain the same: $1.75 at the elementary level and $1.85 at the high school level.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the aim of the community eligibility program is to provide an alternative to household eligibility applications for free and reduced-price meals in high-poverty districts.

The provision allows districts to use information from other programs such as the Temporary Assistance Program for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to identify families in need, Bauscher said.

If more than 40 percent of students in a school automatically qualify for free meals, the entire school can be part of the Community Eligibility program and all students can get free lunches.

Bauscher said JCPS is able to combine a lower-poverty and higher-poverty school and offer the free meals if their combined numbers meet the program qualifications, she said.

The district has been working to expand the number of schools on its list. Last year, 26,500 students at 32 schools were added.

However, a resolution currently proposed in Congress has some districts around the country worried about the future of the Community Eligibility program.

As reported by The Atlantic, the House of Representatives bill has not passed out of committee. It would provide stricter rules for schools to qualify for the program, raising the eligibility threshold to 60 percent and force thousands of high-poverty schools nationally to rollback school meals.

The 17 schools in JCPS that are still ineligible to serve free meals to all students and may see an increase in meals include Audubon, Brandeis, Dunn, Greathouse/Shryock, Hite, Lowe, Norton, Schaffner, Stopher and Tully elementary schools; Barret and Jefferson County Traditional middle schools; Ballard, Eastern, Louisville Male and duPont Manual high schools and the Brown School.

In addition, the new Norton Commons Elementary School, which opens this fall, will also not be eligible.


81,000 students of all incomes now eligible to receive free meals in JCPS

JCPS could expand free meal program under new federal guidelines

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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