In Lynn schools, there is such a thing as free lunch

LYNN — It’s official: all Lynn Public Schools students will receive free breakfast and lunch at the start of the school year.

In May, the School Committee approved a request from Kevin McHugh, School Business Administrator, that allowed the administration to enter into the Community Eligibility Provision Program, a non-pricing meal service option for schools in low-income areas. Earlier this week, the CEP was officially approved and they will begin serving students free meals this fall. The provision program is part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

“This program will not add one penny to our school budget, but will add a layer of care, compassion and security for every student in the Lynn Public Schools,” said School Committee member Michael Satterwhite.

The program eliminates paperwork and provides all students a school-provided meal at no cost to the budget or the students’ families. It is part of a federal policy change around the school meal reimbursements that encourages districts to reduce the stigma around the free and reduced lunch program by providing free meals to every student in the public school system, according to school officials.

The CEP allows high need schools to serve free meals to all students while alleviating the administrative burden to collect paper applications, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website. In a previous memo written by McHugh, it was noted that it was not financially feasible for the Lynn Public Schools administration to submit an application to DESE until this year. The department only counts students who are “direct certified,” meaning they were receiving assistance and listed as such on the state’s database.

School administration officials have been working over the past two years to increase the district’s direct certified students percentage by comparing its student database against the state’s databases. The district’s current 58.4 percent direct certified rate allows Lynn Public Schools to receive a net profit of $100,000 annually; previously, the program would have been cost prohibitive. To qualify for the program, a school district must have a direct certified rate of at least 40 percent.

“I hope every student utilizes our breakfast and lunch program as we continue to review the products we serve our students and seek feedback,” said Satterwhite. “Ending hunger can start right on our schools.”

Gayla Cawley contributed to this report.

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