JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — School bells rang Wednesday morning across Jackson County as kids went back into the classroom after summer break.
And in three school districts, very student was welcomed back by the option of taking advantage of free meals.
The saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” no longer applies at East Jackson Community Schools.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our district,” said Glenn Schramm, the district’s food service director.
Schramm says it comes from changes to state rules concerning food assistance for kids.
The district is now taking advantage of a grant that allows them to provide breakfast and lunch to every student for free.
“The only money that would be exchanged is if they want to buy something extra. If they want to come in and get a type A lunch, it’s free,” Schramm said.
Schramm says staff can now focus on serving meals instead of dealing with the paperwork of who’s getting free or reduced lunch.
More than 60 percent of students in the East Jackson qualify for food assistance.
Officials believe this will help families who might be embarrassed to admit they need help.
“There’s no stigma attached because everybody is the same,” Schramm said. “Kids who eat breakfast do better in school. They’re more attentive. Kids who eat lunch, you know, their bellies are full, they’re not grumbling all day.”
The district is satisfied that food served in cafeterias will help students, but also families across the district.
“This will save a family $900 per child at least per year. So it’s a significant savings for families,” said Superintendent Steve Doerr.
Two other nearby districts are taking advantage of food assistance programs.
Starting this school year, Northwest Community Schools is also offering free meals to all students.
Jackson Public Schools is extending its existing free meal program to the high school.
East Jackson’s superintendent says he anticipates more districts will follow suit to make sure no student goes hungry.
“It only has a benefit for the students and the families that are enrolled in your district,” Doerr said.