FLORENCE, Ky. – Back-to-school can be a rough time for parents on a budget and their hungry kids. But three Boone County schools are feeding students for free this year.
No lunch money needed at Collins Elementary School, Florence Elementary and RA Jones Middle School this year.
“I was pretty excited about it," said Brianna Gossett, parent of a fourth grader.
So is Barbara Kincaid, Director of Food Services for Boone County Schools.
“We already provide great education here. We already provide great lunches here and great meals, great breakfast. But this is for everybody," said Kincaid.
Sixty percent of students at those schools already qualify for free or reduced-cost meals that parents have to apply for. But the latest USDA program makes the free meal universal.
“A lot of parents and families really struggle and really need that extra money for other things, like using it on books,” Gossett said.
Some parents say they can spend a couple hundred dollars on meals each school year. Now they can save instead of spend. And the process is simple. Students just go through the line and type in their number, and they receive a free meal.
Some of the nearly 200 Boone County school cafeteria staff say serving kids without a cost makes all the difference.
“It means the world to me. These kids need me," said cafeteria manager Bobbie Richey. “They’ve come in on Monday morning -- the principal will bring them down and say, 'This child hasn’t had anything to eat all weekend. Can you get them some breakfast?' And I’m like, 'Sure I’m there.'”
And even though it's only the second day of this school year, faculty and staff say the response has been rewarding.
"We've had so many calls from parents that said, 'I didn't know what I was going to do this year. We're struggling financially.' And this is just sort of icing on the cake for them," Kincaid said.