Providence Public Schools expands free lunch program for 2017-18 school year

PROVIDENCE – A free breakfast and lunch will be provided to all Providence Public Schools elementary school students after the capital city’s federally supported Community Eligibility Program was expanded this school year, according to an Aug. 31 statement.

“The decision to make all elementary school meals free to students removes the financial stress some families may feel and ensures that students have both breakfast and lunch readily available to them,” Robert Gondola Jr., secretary for the Providence School Board and chairman of the board’s Health and Wellness Committee, said in prepared remarks.

During the 2016-17 school year, 85 percent of Providence public school students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch and 13 of the district’s 22 elementary schools offered free meals as part of the CEP pilot initiative. Schools added to the program this fall include:

  • Anthony Carnevale Elementary
  • Vartan Gregorian Elementary
  • Robert F. Kennedy Elementary
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary
  • Leviton Dual Language Academy
  • Pleasant View Elementary
  • Reservoir Avenue Elementary
  • Webster Street Elementary
  • George J. West Elementary

Free and reduced-price lunch eligibility is determined on a student-by-student basis according to the family’s income level. However, the Providence Public School District does not “lunch shame.” Students are not denied the meal if they are unable to pay, regardless of their eligibility.

- Advertisement -

Christopher N. Maher, superintendent of Providence Public Schools, said in a statement: “Good nutrition impacts every facet of the lives of growing children, and research shows that children who eat healthy lunches are more likely to achieve in school. Providing free, nutritious lunches for our elementary school students makes good sense.”

The Providence Public School District serves approximately 24,000 students and their families through 22 elementary schools, seven middle schools, 10 high schools and two public district charter schools. Its student body identifies as 63 percent Hispanic, 17 percent black, 10 percent white, 5 percent Asian, 4 percent multiracial and 1 percent Native American. Approximately 26 percent of students are English Language Learners.

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email,