Proposed legislation, which passed both the Maryland state Senate and House of Delegates, would dish out free meals to students in the state who may be too embarrassed by living below the poverty level to eat free lunches in front of peers, according to an article on Maryland Reporter.com.
The beauty of Senate Bill 334, the news site quoted state Sen Richard Madaleno, a Democrat from Montgomery County, as saying, is that it would be paid for by the federal government and would have no or minimal impact on the state budget.
We reported in April 2013 that the federal government had revised its qualification rules for students to be eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The new guidelines allow entire schools or groups of schools where more than 40 percent of students would qualify for free or reduced-price meals to skip the paperwork needed to qualify each student for the program individually. If schools sign up, all students would become eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
Because the federal government fully subsidizes only 60 percent of the cost of meals at schools participating in this program, known as the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, there comes a point where schools would receive more money if they went ahead and qualified each student anyway. As a result, schools where more than 60 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price meals are more likely to require eligible students to document their individual eligibility.
Documenting that a school is eligible for the CEP means more paperwork for schools, though. For the families, filling out paperwork to document their income level creates a stigma; for the schools, enrolling in the CEP just creates more paperwork and a heavier administrative burden.
SB 334, which passed the Maryland House of Delegates by a unanimous vote last week and the Senate by a unanimous vote in the first week of March, and assuming Gov Larry Hogan signs it, would reduce that administrative burden on the schools and, we think, encourage more schools to participate in the CEP. All students at those schools would get free or reduced-price meals, regardless of their families’ income level. Don’t ask, don’t tell, just eat!