The Richmond County school year starts August 12th and lunch could soon be at no cost for all of the county's students.
If 40 percent of students are identified as low income, they automatically qualify for this program. Richmond County officials say, 78 percent of students were on free- or reduced-price lunches last year...putting them at the top of the list for this for the grant.
Richmond County School nutritionist Josephine Mack says, oftentimes, kids would show up to school starving, begging for food. She says those students' reduced-price lunch, at $2 per day, became their only meal.
"It means that you don't have money, parents don't have money. A lot of them don't have food at home to prepare to let them bring a lunch. So, it means that you don't have to worry about that," Mack says of the program.
Dietitians say, having a well-balanced meal is crucial for growth, brain development, and better grades.
"Kids, especially, they don't have the stores that we may have as adults. If they don't have that ready fuel, they don't have quite as much to pull from usually as normal weight kids. They're already growing, their brain is using up that glucose. If they don't have that, they may be tired, have trouble concentrating, or really just not be as focused," says Johanna Whisenhunt, who is the Clinical Nutritional Manager at Doctors Hospital.
To make sure each student is fed at least one healthy meal, the Richmond County Board of Education approved the Community Eligibility Option, part of President Obama's 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. It's a move that all 57 schools can benefit from...
"It was a phase-in pilot program. They had 4 states and then three that qualified. When Georgia was approved, we knew that Richmond County could apply, so that's what we did," Mack says.
The program requires all cafeterias to have healthy options, including more fruits, multi-grain breads, and less sugar...another thing that may help improve test scores and children's performance.
Richmond County property owners will be shelling out a few cents for the federally-funded program. School officials say, it's small change that can directly impact our future leaders.
Breakfast is already provided free of charge for Richmond County students. The program will take affect August 12th.
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