Students across the Cape Girardeau Public School District will receive free breakfast and lunch starting later this month.
Thanks to a USDA program allowed by the ‘Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’, the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) meal service option, the district will be utilizing free meals for all students for the next four years. Superintendent Dr. Neil Glass says they expect the program to make a huge difference in the classroom.
“You know, one of the most difficult things teachers face is educating a student when they’re sitting in their chair hungry, or they can’t focus because their stomach growling,” says Glass. “With this, every student will have the option to eat breakfast and lunch.”
Glass says previously, the district only offered free breakfast, and free or reduced-price lunch based on income. They began running numbers in spring of this year, and realized they met qualifications for the program. School districts with an identified student percentage (ISP) of 40% or higher are eligible for a CEP. Glass says several districts within the state of Missouri are currently taking advantage of the program, and Cape is one of the few district-wide.
While some old favorites will remain on the menu and USDA nutritional guidelines will still be met, they plan to make some changes. Cafeteria managers will host a taste testing to determine which foods are successful among the student body.
“They’re the ones eating it, so why not?” says Glass. “We also don’t want to see it go in the trash; we want to see the kids consume it.”
Schools benefiting from the program include the district’s five elementary schools - Alma Schrader, Blanchard, Clippard, Franklin, and Jefferson - and Central Middle School, Central Junior High, Central High, and the Central Academy.
“Everybody is ready to see the impact this makes on our kids, and we anticipate an increase in participation in our meal programs this fall,” says Glass.