The meal program, more than a year in the making, is part of an experimental federal initiative that aims to make it easier for students from low-income families to receive free meals by eliminating the need to fill out paperwork, including potentially invasive questions about income.
Cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, and Chicago have been or will be participating in the free-meal program. Starting next school year, the program will be open to any school district across the country with high concentrations of students from low-income families. The cost of the free meals will be covered by the federal government.
“Every child has a right to healthy, nutritious meals in school, and when we saw a chance to offer these healthy meals at no cost to them, we jumped at the chance,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino in a prepared statement. “This takes the burden of proof off our low-income families and allows all children, regardless of income, to know healthy meals are waiting for them at school every day.”
The change, Boston school officials say, is a natural outgrowth of a decision last school year to offer all students free breakfasts. It eliminated an awkward socioeconomic divide that unfolded in some schools every morning, where low-income students would receive free milk, pastries, or other items in their classrooms, while more affluent students often went without.