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This upcoming school year, all students in the Chicago Public Schools system will be given free meals, regardless of income.

This is the first time that all schools, including “well-off” institutes, will join in. About 400 schools participated last year.

From Think Progress:

Participation has already brought benefits to Chicago. 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.

“This transition will also allow us to improve quality of food and infrastructure in our lunchrooms, allowing us to redirect the dollars we no longer have to subsidize back to the classroom,” the district said in an email to WBEZ.

A number of other school districts have decided to participate in the hopes of seeing savings and cutting down on administrative logistics. Paperwork was costing Dallas about $300,000 a year before it decided to give all students free meals. Boston and Indianapolis are offering free meals for all, and schools in Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan were the first to implement the program.

The move, slated to start in September, 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.

But more importantly, the switch combats the stigma placed on students singled out for free or reduced lunch, or not receiving a lunch at all. Three-quarters of the nation’s teachers say they have students who regularly come to class hungry, and more than one in five children lacks steady access to food.

So free lunch for all? Well, we think that’s something to celebrate.

SOURCE: Think Progress | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty

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