Starting in September, all students in the Chicago Public Schools system, regardless of income, will be given free school meals. Partial participation last year (400 schools) has already brought benefits. The district no longer has to subsidize meal programs with its general fund money and it’s getting a larger federal reimbursement. The full expansion this fall should also reduce staff time spent tracking which students have to pay for meals and collecting the money. Other cities have seen similar results. Paperwork was costing Dallas about $300,000 a year before it decided to give all students free meals.
The switch also saves parents headaches and money. The challenges of filling out the paperwork kept many eligible families from enrolling and many fell just outside the income limits. Just half of the students eligible for free breakfast across the country actually get it. But in Boston, families just above the limits are now saving $230 per child each year for free breakfasts and between $405 and $455 per child for lunch.
Source: Think Progress, 7/8/14, School Meals