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No New Hampshire Schools Signing On To FDA 'Free Lunch' Program

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The Manchester School Board voted Monday night not to apply for a new federal program that provides free breakfast and lunch to all students, but the state’s largest city is not alone in opting out of the program.

Any school where forty percent of students receive food stamps (SNAP), or temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) is eligible for a USDA program which began in 2010, but was only expanded to New Hampshire this year. It ensures that every student is fed breakfast and lunch.

But there’s a catch.

As Manchester’s Superintendent Debrah Livingston makes clear, the FDA doesn’t give the district funding for every lunch it provides. Instead it gives the school funding equal to the 1.6 times the number of lunches they give to their neediest students.

“72 percent of the cost would be reimbursed,” in Manchester’s case, says Livingston, “but we would have to then look at where else would that come from, because every child would be receiving a free lunch.”

There are 58 schools in 24 districts across the state that qualify, but none have opted to sign up this year.

Officials in Manchester and Nashua both say they will reevaluate whether to participate next year.

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. He shifted gears in 2016 and began producing Outside/In, a podcast and radio show about “the natural world and how we use it.” His work has won him several awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow awards, one national Murrow, and the Overseas Press Club of America's award for best environmental reporting in any medium. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.

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