Keeping students full at school

Free meals for school kids —millions of children across the country rely on the service.

In Graves County, 90 percent of students now qualify for free meals. In fact 3,000 students can eat both breakfast and lunch for free this year, and parents and school leaders alike say the meals mean more than full bellies.

As part of a back to school function, Fancy Farm Elementary School students get to enjoy their ice cream before the fruits and vegetables of the school year. Filling bellies is a good start for students, but Graves County Nutrition Director Shelina McClain says free food in school creates brain fuel. 

"When students come in and they're hungry, they then eat breakfast and are ready to be successful and learn in the classroom," says McClain.

All that students have to do to get their breakfast or lunch at no cost is to enter their personal code. Staff will check and make sure they have all the food groups represented on their trays before they take their tray to the lunchroom.

Graves County mother and Mayfield counselor, Tabitha Smith says she fights hunger and malnutrition first hand in her county. She works at Project HOPE and says sometimes families don't get the great nutrition, or aren't correctly taught about good nutrition. Smith says she believes the meals will help the whole county —even those students who bring their lunch.

"Maybe they'll go home and tell their parents 'I ate kiwi,'" says Smith.

School directors and parents hope by helping children in need, it will also help their families and the rest of the county.

Graves County High School is the only school in the district that will not have meals at no cost.

In Marshall County, five schools offer free meals to the student body. In McCracken County, only one school does. In Calloway County, it's six out of seven schools.

The meals are federally funded, and school districts qualify when at least 40-percent of their students and families qualify.

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