Salem's Buckeye Elementary offers free breakfast & lunch for stu - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Salem's Buckeye Elementary offers free breakfast & lunch for students

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SALEM, Ohio -

A lot of us just take it for granted: grab a little breakfast before we start our day. In Salem, that wasn't happening for a lot of kids, so they hooked up with a federal program to give every student at Buckeye Elementary free breakfast and lunch every school day.

It's part of the federal Community Eligibility Program, so when kids came back from winter break they started getting breakfast and lunch at no cost.

"The research is clear, the link between nutrition and learning and basic comfort and basic nutritional needs," said Salem superintendent Dr. Joe Shivers.

District-wide, around 60% of the kids qualify for free or reduced lunch.

"Some of these children come home and when they eat lunch here that's the last meal they have had," said Michele Fisher, the school's food service director. "Some of the ones that are afraid to come up and get a lunch because they might not know if they had money on their account, they might not even know if they're free or reduced... Now they're with everybody else in line and they don't feel out of place."

It cost the district about $8,000 to roll this out, giving all 460 students at Buckeye Elementary two meals a day for the rest of the school year. It is entirely optional; the day 21 News went to the cafeteria, there were still plenty of students with a packed lunch. The hope from school administrators is that the program will grow in popularity once parents see it in motion.

"The enthusiasm was as close to unanimous as I've ever seen in any program," said Shivers. "Anytime you bring a program in there are misgivings, there's a change. This one, everybody was on board."

If this goes well, Shivers says he would like to expand it to other schools in the district in the near future as well.

"We're looking at expanding it perhaps next year to the next two grade levels anyhow. We'll have to come up with the money obviously. Once again, the benefits are undeniable," said Shivers.

Despite a few snow days after winter break, it appears the program is already making a difference.

"I have talked with parents who have stopped me as they're picking up their children and they've just said 'Thank you,'" said Buckeye Elementary principal John Lundin.

Two free meals a day, setting the table for learning quite literally.

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