MERIDEN — Students at all of the city’s 12 public schools will be able to receive breakfast and lunch at no cost next school year thanks to an expanded federal grant program.
“By offering students the five components of a healthy meal, we’re setting up students for success,” Meriden’s Director of Food and Nutrition Services Susan Maffe said Thursday.
The Board of Education recently voted to accept the additional funding. Five city schools currently provide breakfast and lunch at no cost.
The school system applied for an expansion of the program and it was approved. Maffe said the district received the federal grant because of the city’s “high need.”
The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision program, which provides meals at no cost to students in low-income areas.
Board of Education president Mark Hughes said the number of students within the demographic that receive free or reduced meals recently increased.
“Those numbers have always fluctuated, but we are at the highest point in the past school year,” Hughes said.
Maffe said that 70 percent of students in the district are already eligible for the free lunch program.
Maffe said there is a stigma that comes with the idea of a “free” meal through the program, and school officials hope to change that mindset by providing meals to all students.
“The word free has a negative connotation,” said Maffe.
Hughes said providing meals to all students will eliminate the need to fill out applications.
“It takes away the stigma,” said Hughes. “Kids don’t have to feel self conscious about asking for a free or reduced meal.”