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McGregor students get free meals for four years

McGregor students get free meals for four years

All students attending the McGregor School District will get free breakfast and lunch for the next four years, no matter their family’s financial situation.
It’s thanks to a federally funded grant via The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

It’s good news for the district, where 75 percent of students qualify for free or reduced meals, said McGregor School District business manager Shauna Dalchow.

"When kids don't have breakfast, or they haven't had a meal for a long time, they don't have enough fuel to actually get the brain going." -Chrisa Arcan, University of Minnesota medical school. 

“When kids don’t have breakfast, or they haven’t had a meal for a long time, they don’t have enough fuel to actually get the brain going.” -Chrisa Arcan, University of Minnesota medical school.

But it won’t come free to the district, which has about 370 students. The grant funds only part of the bill, leaving the school to pay about $25,000 each of the four years to make up the difference.

Still, it was important to district leaders to move forward with the program.

More than 2,200 schools implemented the program during the 2012-13 school year. Between October 2010 and October 2012, participation in schools that operated under community eligibility for two years saw an average of 13 percent increase in school breakfasts and 25 percent increase in school lunch.

Source: Food Research and Action Center

Cost for a meal at McGregor School District:

Breakfast: $1.75

Lunch: $2.35 (Elementary); $2.45 (high school)

“We feel that students who are receiving a good, nutritional breakfast and lunch do better in the classroom and are able to concentrate better. There’s better attendance,” Dalchow said.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 included community eligibility as a new option to allow high-poverty schools to feed more students.

There was a phase-in process that started in the 2011-12 school year. Minnesota was one of the last phased-in schools, meaning that 2014-15 is the first school year that it could apply to participate. The program is now nationwide.

To participate, schools must meet a minimum level of 40 percent or more students identified to receive free meals.

At McGregor Elementary, 52.79 percent of students receive free meals. At the high school, it’s 38.85 percent.

Add in those students who receive reduced prices, and 75 percent of the district is getting help in paying for meals.

Since the high school didn’t meet the 40 percent requirement, the district grouped the two schools together so all students could participate.

Should the free lunch population of students increase after four years, the district will be eligible for more aid. Should it decrease, there will likely be less aid.

At the end of the four years, district leaders will re-evaluate the program and see if it’s financially feasible to continue, Dalchow said.

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