On Free Lunch

Pat Schneider::

There are not a lot of wins in public education these days, says Mike Hernandez, principal at Sherman Middle School on Madison’s north side.

But a program new this school year offering free breakfast and lunch to every student at Sherman is a big win, Hernandez says.

“We had a large number of fringe students, whose family income was just above the line but were not able to afford to buy lunch,” he said. “Now they are able to eat, and I’m not seeing kids with their heads down because they are embarrassed because they can’t pay for lunch.”

Seven schools and 11 alternative programs in the Madison Metropolitan School District with high levels of poverty are offering free breakfast and lunch to all students, paid for by the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program.

The participating sites have seen a 27.5 percent increase in meals served at breakfast and an 18 percent increase at lunch, said school district spokesperson Rachel Strauch-Nelson.