DALLAS (AP) — All of the Dallas school district's 159,000 students will now get free breakfast and lunch after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will no longer link the cost of meals to students' family income, district officials announced.
The district will become one of the nation's largest districts to provide both meals under the department's federally funded meal program.
The changes apply to every student regardless of family income. Snacks are not included.
The Dallas Morning News (http://dallasne.ws/1c2Qmoh ) on Wednesday reported that the district decided to make the change — it had considered the move in recent years — after 89 percent of its students qualified for a free or reduced-price meal last year. To qualify, a family of four must earn less than $30,615 a year.
"It's a wonderful benefit," Dora Rivas, the district's executive director of food and child nutrition services, told the newspaper. "It's about paperwork and efficiencies, but I think the biggest winners in this are going to be students."
District officials hope the overhaul saves money by eliminating 40 jobs and paperwork. The district has spent about $300,000 annually on application processing and on public information.
Several Texas school districts have already qualified for the free-meal program, which the USDA launched in 1980.
There is also a risk of lost revenue. The 11 percent of students who were required to pay full lunch price, $2.93, will now pay nothing.
However, Rivas said there's a potential for increased revenue as students will now have extra money to buy snacks.
The district will continue this year to collect student applications for those meals. The USDA will reimburse the district for the new free program based on the number of applicants this year and their family incomes.
The federal government reimburses Dallas ISD $3.01 per free meal and $2.61 for a reduced price meal.
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com