The program is a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act passed in 2010. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that 32 million students eat lunch and 12 million students eat breakfast at school each day. The act is intended to help provide nutritious food to those students, thus impacting academic performance, discipline and helping to fight childhood obesity.
“The Community Eligibility Provision will have a widespread effect on our students,” said Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent Dr. Gerald Zahorchak. “A simple and basic act such as providing breakfast can result in better attendance and fewer disciplinary issues. Fewer students complain about stomachaches and headaches associated with hunger, and there are fewer visits to the school nurse. Student participation in the classroom increases and there is a positive influence on academic performance.”
The CEP potentially will impact schools throughout the state. All students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools will receive free lunches and breakfasts according to published reports, and Philadelphia school districts also meet the eligibility standard of having 40 percent of a school district’s population including families receiving federal assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
The CEP also is expected to reduce paperwork and the task of collecting lunch and breakfast fees from only a portion of students as in past school years.
“I’m excited because we know our kids will have three good meals available to them each school day,” Johnstown High School Principal Michael Vuckovich said. “This has the potential to impact the students’ academic performance, their discipline and truancy. This is another investment in our students’ future. They may not see it immediately, but their physical, social and emotional needs are being met.”
Tom Yocke is a regional manager The Nutrition Group, a food and facilities management company. He works with nine school districts, including Greater Johnstown.
“We’ve had a long-term relationship with Greater Johnstown School District and we’re moving forward to better the students in the district,” Yocke said. “The CEP is another way we can meet the needs of the students of Greater Johnstown.”
“We will serve every student throughout the school district,” Yocke continued. “Any student coming into school in the Greater Johnstown School District has available to them a free breakfast and a free lunch. There is not an application process. There is no need for a household to hand in an application.”
Vuckovich said the program has additional benefits which enable students to receive waivers for the SAT application and the NCAA clearing house online application.
“I feel that this is a great opportunity for our students and our community,” said Johnstown High Assistant Principal Michael Dadey. “This will ensure that our students have three meals a day and are getting the required nutrition recommended by the government regulations.”