(WHTM) – There’s an old saying that suggests ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch,’ but in Pennsylvania, students will get a free breakfast.
It’s part of a $46 million addition to the state budget recently signed by Governor Josh Shapiro, who is touting the program across the state.
Shapiro insists this is a no-brainer to power young brains, saying “How can we expect kids to learn math and science in English when they come to school on an empty stomach? We can’t.”
The federal government underwrites free meals for the 65% who qualify based on income. The state will now pick up the tab for everybody else, but schools must now prepare a meal for every single student.
Vance Varner, Superintendent of the Mifflin County School District, says they’re ready to go and “can make this happen.” All of this is despite teacher contracts saying they don’t start until 8 a.m. and breakfast scheduled to start at 7:40 a.m.
It may be a bagged breakfast as students head to class and it might be mid-morning, but it must be healthy.
Vonda Ramp, Director of Child Nutrition with the Pennsylvania Department of Education says the breakfast has to include a grain and a fruit.
“It can include a vegetable and it has to include milk,” says Ramp, who adds that it’s on schools to work out things such as allergies.
“They get to decide exactly what they want to serve when they want to serve it.”
Since everyone can get a meal, the program is set so that students won’t feel singled out.
“It’s a very sensitive issue for children to be stigmatized as being poor and being hungry,” says Ramp.
The Department of Education reiterated its hopes every eligible student partakes in the meal because all of them are invited.