Polk’s expanded program ensures students won’t go hungry

FORT MEADE, FL (WFLA) – A federal program aims to ensure students won’t go hungry at more than 100 schools across Polk County. Free breakfast  and lunch will now be offered to every student, at those sites, through the US Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision program.

Polk county served as a pilot community for the program three years ago.  By last school year, 77 schools were able to offer meals to all students at no charge.  The number will jump to 107 sites this school year.

The program targets schools in low income areas.  Susan Ehrhart, Polk’s Director of School Nutrition, says it helps the district reach even more families in need.  There is no longer a stigma attached to kids waiting in line for free or reduced-priced meals at participating schools because everyone’s food is free, according to Ehrhart.

Ehrhart believes full bellies lead to better learning.  Each meal served is well balanced and could be the only healhy meal the child receives all day, she says.

Polk is gaining national attention for its innovative school menu items.  Chicken and waffles and cajun breakfast bowls will be added to the menu at some schools this year.

Participating schools have seen a dramatic increase the number of students eating breakfast and lunch on campus.  For a full list of Polk schools participating in the USDA Community Eligibility Provision Program, click here.

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