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PNS Daily Newscast - November 13, 2018. 


Californian’s now facing a pair of wildfires; Also on the Tuesday rundown: Higher education in New Jersey: a racial split; plus food resources still available despite the “public charge” proposal.

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Window of Opportunity for Universal Free Meals for High-Needs MA Schools

A window of opportunity opens August 1 for high-needs school districts across the state to sign up for a program that offers universal free meals to all students in high-needs districts. Credit: USDA
A window of opportunity opens August 1 for high-needs school districts across the state to sign up for a program that offers universal free meals to all students in high-needs districts. Credit: USDA
July 30, 2015

BOSTON - A big window of opportunity opens August 1 for high-needs school districts to sign up for a program that provides universal free meals to all students.

Patrick Roach, chief financial officer with Springfield Public Schools, says they signed up for the Community Eligibility Provision last year. He says poor students no longer have to show ID cards since all students eat free. He says more students are eating lunch and breakfast and they are performing better as a result.

"They have really hungry kids in Springfield, but during the day they are not suffering from hunger pangs so they can focus on learning," says Roach. "We have less visits to the nurse. Their attendance increases."

Roach says the first year went so well the program is being expanded in Springfield to include parochial and charter schools that asked to be included in the universal free-meal program.

Christina Maxwell, director of programs with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, says universal free lunch is particularly important in more rural parts of the state experiencing higher levels of unemployment and where the economy has been slower to recover.

"I am talking about Chicopee, Greenfield, North Adams, Pittsfield, Westfield," says Maxwell. "By signing up for Community Eligibility, these school districts could be providing a lot more food to a lot more food-insecure kids."

At the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, executive director Georgia Katsoulomitis says there is plenty of room for improvement all across the state, because half of eligible school districts have signed up.

"We think all eligible school districts should participate because it is good for the children, and it cuts down on administration burdens to the schools and the school districts," she says. "So, it is a win-win."

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA