Free School Meals To Be Provided for Somerset Co. Students - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Free School Meals To Be Provided for Somerset Co. Students

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WESTOVER, Md.- There’s no such thing as free lunch unless you live in Somerset County.

The county’s public school system received federal funding to foot the bill for school meals this upcoming school year because of the county’s high poverty rate.

Nearly a dozen children inside Debbies Childcare Center, located in Princess Anne, had a busy afternoon of fun. Kanden Cange, 4, chose to pass some time with a jumbo puzzle after lunch. Cange said he loves to eat. His favorite meal is breakfast.

"What's your favorite breakfast meal? Pancakes and eggs,” Cange replied.  “Do you eat breakfast and lunch all the time? Yes," he said.

Like Cange, who said he does not miss a meal, Leo Lawson, the spokesperson for Somerset County Public Schools, said no child will have to this upcoming school year.

Lawson said the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) rooted in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act 2010, qualifies the school system for some help. The legislation, signed by President Barack Obama and phased in during July of 2011, authorizes funding for child nutrition and free lunch programs.

According to advocacy group, Maryland Hunger Solutions, 28 percent of children are living below  the poverty line in Somerset County, and the food insecurity rate is 18 percent.

" We believe it will impact the families in a very positive way because the lunch prices for this coming year were $2.40 cents for senior high and $2.25 cents for intermediate school and elementary school," Lawson said.

Ebony Hamilton’s daughter is going to the first grade. She said the free meal plan will help a lot.

"It's great because the past few years that she's been in school, I've been having to either pack lunch daily or pay for lunch at school, " Hamilton said. “ It will be a big help."

Lawson said balanced meals will cut down on the county’s high obesity and diabetes rates. Frances Fitchett agrees. She said healthy meals will help keep children focused in the classroom.

" I think when children are properly fed, it helps them educationally,” Fitchett said. “ They are able to be more alert and to respond to the classroom setting."

Lawson said Somerset County is the only county in the state that offers free breakfast and lunch to all students under CEP.

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