Laurel County Public Schools recently decided to offer free lunch and breakfast to all students in their school district for the upcoming school year, according to the school district’s press release.

The decision has them participating in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. The programs pride themselves in offering students healthy meals for no charge, while they are still allowed to purchase extra food at the cafeteria if they want.

Over 12 million kids across the country live in homes that are food insecure, which equals out to around one in six children, according to No Kid Hungry. Food insecurity is the lack of access or reliable means to obtain nutritional food.

The free meals come from the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which is a branch of the National School Lunch Program, falling under the United States Department of Agriculture.

Parents and students at Laurel County Public Schools will have to fill out a household income form to determine if the students can receive additional benefits as well from federal and state programs.

While lunches and breakfasts for students will be free for the 2019-2020 school year, any existing debt or charges will still stand and need to be paid. The median of lunch debt in the United States rose to $2,500 in 2018, according to New Food Economy.

More information about the free lunch and breakfast program can be found at the Laurel County Public Schools website, www.laurel.kyschools.us, or by calling 606-862-4600. Tammy Hammock, Food Service Director, can be reached at tammy.hammock@laurel.kyschools.us, and Molly Barnett, Community Education and Public Information Officer, can be reached at molly.barnett@laurel.kyschools.us.

Almost 22 million kids from low-income households took part in the National School Lunch Program in 2018, with 96,000 schools participating, according to the Food Research and Action Center.

The National School Lunch Program annually costs over $13 billion, according to the School Nutrition Association (SNA).

The SNA also lists the average high school lunch costing $2.74, while middle and elementary school lunches cost $2.68 and $2.48, respectively. The average high school breakfast costs $1.55, with the middle school cost being $1.53 and elementary breakfast being $1.46.

ccoyle@sentinel-echo.com

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