ROANOKE, Va. – More students will receive free lunch in Roanoke City this year.
"Nobody wants to see a child go hungry. This guarantees that every child at pretty much all of our schools except two will get free breakfast and lunch every single day," said Justin McLeod, coordinator of community relations for Roanoke City Public Schools.
Thanks to the Community Eligibility Provision, a federal program, five additional Roanoke City schools will offer free breakfast and lunch to all students. Those schools are Fishburn Park Elementary, Wasena Elementary, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, James Madison Middle School, and Patrick Henry High School.
"It essentially means everybody is on a playing field. You know, there is a stigma with free and reduced lunch -- this eliminates all of it," said McLeod.
While the program is positive, it also highlights the need and hunger risk among students in Roanoke.
To find out if schools qualify for the federal free lunch program, officials use a math equation. They take the number of identified students who receive benefits from SNAP, TANIF or other government assistance programs. Then, they divide that by the number of students enrolled at the school and multiply that by 100 to get a percentage. To be able to apply for the program, a school has to meet 40 percent or higher.
"When a child comes to school on a full stomach or comes to school and gets a full stomach, they are ready to learn. That benefits the school system," said McLeod.
The only two schools not qualified for the CEP are Crystal Spring and Grandin Court elementary schools, but parents can still apply for their children to receive free or reduced lunch at those schools.
Roanoke County and Montgomery County do not have any schools that qualify for CEP, while all of Danville Public Schools rely on the program.
To learn more about Roanoke City's free and reduced lunch program, click here.