BERWICK -- There's great news for a school district in Columbia County. The Berwick Area School District says starting in the next school year, every student in the district will be able to get free breakfast and lunch in their school's cafeteria.
After a long day of school and after-school activities, middle school students in the Berwick Area School District say they've worked up an appetite. As they gathered in the middle school's cafeteria, they were more than happy to share their favorite thing to get for lunch.
“Spicy chicken patty with hot sauce and ketchup,” said sixth grader Kayden Atkinson.
“I like the popcorn chicken with mashed potatoes,” said sixth grader Liam Welch.
Now, there's another reason to get excited for lunchtime in the district.
Starting in the fall, the district will offer every student in the district free breakfast and free lunch regardless of their family income.
The school board voted to enter the district into the Community Eligibility Provision program offered through the state and federal governments to school districts in low-income areas.
Renee Gomez is the business manager for the Berwick Area School District. She says the district has a surplus of $184,000 from last year's food service budget. That's more than the $172,000 the district took in from lunch sales, so it can cover the difference.
“Basically $172,000 would be the loss of revenue that the district is receiving for the students that normally pay right now, on today's date,” said Gomez.
Gomez says 70 percent of the students already receive free lunches.
Parents are thrilled to hear that all students will be getting not only free lunch but breakfast, too.
“The possibility of both of them, whenever they want, they can have breakfast and they can also have lunch,” said parent Vince Pellegrini.
“Because I pay for two children, $3.75 a day, for both children, single mom,” said parent Nicole Worhlforth.
The Berwick Area School District plans to review how well the program did at the end of the next school year in order to decide whether to reapply for it the following year.