MUNCIE — Because Muncie Community Schools is ranked by the federal government as having one of the highest percentages of needy students in the state, the entire student body will get free lunches and breakfasts starting this coming school year.

Schools with a minimum percentage of "identified students" are eligible to participate in the federal program, known as the Community Eligibility Provision authorized by Congress as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

"Identified students" include those who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, formerly known as "welfare"); and Medicaid, along with students identified as homeless, runaway, migrant, foster children and Head Start children.

To participate, at least 40 percent of an individual school's or school district's students must be "identified students." A percentage of 62.5 percent or more needy students allows a school or district to claim all meals free.

The percentage at MCS is 68.82, placing it third highest in the state among traditional public schools (excluding charter schools, which also are public schools), behind Gary Community Schools at 72.94 percent and School City of East Chicago at 70.87 percent.

The program has been around for several years, and more than 360 Hoosier schools — including 61 in the Indianapolis Public Schools district (64.49 percent); 22 in School City of Hammond (56.50 percent); and 27 in South Bend Community Schools (53.64 percent) — already participate, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
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